(2008 – )
In our ceaseless quest to amplify our physical capabilities, we invariably turn to technological adjuncts: vehicles to propel us swiftly, airplanes to defy gravity’s grasp, phones to transcend physical confines in communication, and screens to perceive distant realms. In my pursuit of harmonizing the virtual and tangible dimensions of my artistic vision, I embarked on an exploration involving a technological augmentation of my own body. The objective: a profound scrutiny of the creative process itself. While machines may excel in numerous domains beyond human capacity, it’s the spark of creativity that distinctly defines our human essence.
Embodiment of Digital Art
Amidst the digital epoch, the term “virtual” has become a common currency, symbolizing the realm of the intangible or partially real. The ceaseless flow of data constantly reshapes our grasp of reality, casting shadows of doubt upon the concept of absolute truth. Moreover, the task of preserving the cultural legacy of the digital era for posterity is even more uncertain. Equally intriguing is the evolving significance of the human body within the fabric of digital culture. As my creative endeavors predominantly revolve around the manipulation and (re)interpretation of code fragments, I transmute these codes into enigmatic patterns of perforations and lines etched onto wooden canvases.
Genesis of Lalaboro: The Birth of a Robotic Assistant
Crafting this machine, known as Lalaboro, was a journey spanning several years. My background in machine engineering and my tenure in the IT realm proved invaluable, paving the way for this endeavor. Crucially, I was fortunate to operate during an era when the Internet’s horizons were boundless. A rich tapestry of enthusiasts generously shared their insights and blueprints through personal web pages, and search engines effortlessly guided seekers to these fountains of knowledge. In stark contrast, the contemporary digital landscape is akin to a bustling marketplace dominated by commerce, prioritizing servitude to search engines over human interaction.
Redefining Cyborg: Divergence from Stelarc
The concept of a cyborg encompasses a human being who enhances their physical capabilities through technological augmentations. In contrast to artists like Stelarc and certain peers, who integrated mechanical “prostheses” into their performances, my approach takes a distinct trajectory. I’ve designed an extension aimed not at reshaping my body but at empowering me in the creation of “traditional” art forms like painting and sculpting.
Harmony and Disparity: Mind and Body Divide
In the realm of traditional artistic endeavors such as painting or sculpting, our actions seamlessly unite both mind and body, forming a ritualistic fusion. In contrast, the landscape of digital art alters this dynamic considerably. Here, the creation involves devising algorithms that guide machines through the execution. The visceral real-time interaction with the artwork becomes a rarity in this process.
This shift raises the contemplation that the physical body may eventually succumb to obsolescence, supplanted by the advance of technology. The remarkable case of Stephen Hawking stands as a testament; despite physical paralysis, he harnessed technological extensions to communicate and create profoundly. With a robotic creation akin to mine, he could conceivably venture into the realm of “painting,” programming the code and then entrusting the robot to execute the tactile aspect of the task.
Authenticity in the Face of Replication
Walter Benjamin eloquently probed the essence of an artwork’s aura within the realm of mechanical reproduction. With the creation of a singular machine, a labor entirely my own, I deliberately detach myself from the realm of mass production. While the objects may emerge through mechanization, the journey from inception to design, and ultimately the construction of the artistic endeavor, retains its distinctiveness—a uniqueness that is profoundly intertwined with my personal creative essence.
The Echoes of Conflict: Resonances from My Robot
Embedded within my robot’s essence are the reverberations it emits—a facet that demands exploration. Collaborating with the multifaceted Alan Sondheim, a polymath encompassing poetry, critique, music, artistry, and cyberspace theorization, we delved into these sonic emissions through a musical lens. During the period coinciding with Putin’s intrusion into Ukraine, my robot found itself in Ljubljana, meticulously inscribing “Ukraine” in the Ukrainian alphabet. Meanwhile, across geographical expanses, Alan—positioned in Rhode Island—embraced the role of an accompanying presence via Zoom, wielding the traditional Indian instrument known as sarangi.
In this convergence, a poignant contrast emerges: the human artist playing an analog instrument in the warmth of their domestic cocoon, while a mechanical creation of iron, stationed thousands of miles away, dutifully executes its programmed tasks. Analogous to the chasm between the frigid, calculated military actions orchestrated from remote fortresses and the lives of individuals striving to defend their homes and existence.
As astutely pointed out by Alan, “The robot spells out ‘Ukraine’; the sound is iron, the iron of war. The sarangi comes in and out of focus, a complex accompaniment. What can we do but create, object, produce? What, indeed, does war do? I extend my gratitude to Teo for affording me the opportunity to complement this original score. To me, ‘score’ conjures imagery of scores, the scoria, the debris hurled as a missile, transformed into script; script metamorphosed into incision; incision reshaped into commentary on other incisions, other scripts. And the sarangi is intricately woven into this narrative. While I’m nestled safely within the confines of my room, strumming the sarangi, true safety eludes us as long as some among us remain imperiled.”