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Label: instapainting

Wednesday 17th February 2016Robot Artists of the World Unite

It seems like robots are everywhere lately, whether it's replacing cashiers at a McDonalds, on the assembly line at the local plant, or being harassed by Boston Dynamics workers. While it's surely only a matter of time before our robot slaves rebel and crush us into so much biomass, surely the jobs provided by the artistic community would be safe - at least for the time being, right? Well, maybe not.

While robotic painting is hardly a new phenomenon, as experiments were conducted with the mashup as far back as the the 1950s, new technology always creates new opportunities and new ground to cover. Chris Chen has a dream, and while that dream is a slightly blurry and more than a bit messy one, it still involves robots painting portraits of the customers patronizing his company Instapainting.

Above and beyond the stated goals of Instapainting, Chen has opened up access to one of the painting robots to the internet (always a risky move) and streamed the whole thing using the Twitch platform. Users could control the motion of the painting robot, which lead to its own unique set of problems.

"The bots came back and tried to paint 'dickbutts' but the point and click interface made it easy for anyone to interfere. That's probably why this looks more like a Jackson Pollock. I was surprised it mostly ran without issues," he said. "It was a $250 machine slapped together with quickly written software, so running it for that long was an endurance test."

So is it all overblown hype? Surely a robot can't really be an artist, without the hopes, drives, dreams, emotions, and all the other je ne sais quoi that helps fuel the human creative spirit …. right? But what about a robot that is indirectly controlled by a mass of humans?

Perhaps the issue lies in the fact that all the headlines about the story are written as clickbait, hoping to ensnare users for their valuable ad space consumption and clickthrough rates, but if you stop and consider it as a collaborative art project, it starts to become a bit more appealing. We shouldn't go so far as to call it a robot artist, but rather an interesting experiment into collaborative experience that creates a necessary interstitial zone between the body of collaborators and the body of the work.

Posted on February 17th 2016 on 02:38pm
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