Zwischenräume (In-between Spaces)

Robotic Installation — a collaboration with Rob Saunders | 2010–12

Zwischenräume embeds autonomous robots into the architectural skin of the gallery; the wall becomes the habitat of self-motivated, ‘intelligent’ machines.

Zwischenräume (In-between Spaces) is concerned with the intimate complicities that connect us with the machinic ecologies we create. It develops an unusual concoction of walls, curious robotic agents and surveillance technology to explore the performative potential of the unfolding material pluralogue. The charged terrain of the wall becomes the site for this unusual material encounter, playing out the co-dependant agential relationship between humans, machines and their environment.

The installation couples curious robotic agents with our built environment by embedding robots into the architectural skin, sandwiched between the existing wall and a temporary wall that resembles it. Each machine agent is equipped with a motorised hammer, a surveillance camera, and a microphone to interact with its environment and network with the other machines. The hammer is not only used by the robots to pierce holes for the camera eye to see what’s going on outside but also for communicating amongst the collective. The walls’ and the machines’ anatomy intertwine, turning the wall into the machine’s brittle body, and the machine into the wall’s kinetic organs.

The work aims to move the machine and its performative potential beyond the constraints of a dichotomist, hierarchical power relationship. The machines’ role as the ‘other’ remains unresolved and ambiguous, challenging the audience to shift their perspective and to look at themselves from the machines’ point of view. The reciprocal relationship also shifts the role of the audience – as far as the machines are concerned, the audience performs for them.

Zwischenräume was nominated for the National New Media Art Award 2012, Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA), Brisbane, AU, and received an Honorary Mention at the Digital Turku, European Capital of Culture, Live 2011 Grand Prix.