I have to place my work in the context of contemporary practice. This seems to mean, choose some artists and show how their work covers similar ground but also how mine is significantly different. Rather than do precisely this, I want to choose specific moments where my experience of the work of other artists intersect with this research. An apparatus built up of personal experience, academic research and particular works of art. To this end I have chosen to look in detail at Tinguely’s ICA performance and presentation of the Metamatics in 1956; the moment Rebecca Horn’s Concert for Anarchy, 1990 didn’t work at Tate Modern and Roman Signer holding a rocket in Nicht Loslassen, 1983, mixed with the memory of Challenger’s first flight in 1983 and its last in 1986. In addition to these case studies there are a number of related contemporary phenomena that need mention.
Mika Rottenberg’s Dough 2006, I secretly recorded a video of this on a trip to Berlin in the same year. Rottenberg’s camera travels in a seemingly endless repetitive loop around a bizarrely constructed machine in which the bodies of women are an integral part. At first sight they seems to be workers in a factory, an idea that is backed up by their workwear and slavish attention to the dough. However, they are more than this. the spaces they inhabit appear to be built around their bodies, their sweat is collected and becomes part of the process.
Felix Gonzales-Torres, Untitled (March 5th) #2, 1991, stumbled across in Liverpool this year while avoiding Shia LaBeouf’s appearance at FACT. LaBeouf part of the monstrous “Transformers” engine was part of a work called #Follow. Fans were queuing to see him interact online. Several large bodyguards ensured that they did nothing but look and take selfies. Like the robots that can become cars or buildings or fighter planes the LaBeouf was continuing his transformation between actor and artist. Torres’ piece is far quieter. Though untitled the piece is dated to match the death of his lover. We are invited to see the bulbs as representative of the life of a couple and accept that one will cease to shine before the other. While looking at the work I wonder if anyone has ever been lucky enough to witness the moment of breakdown.
The Collector, 1991-2006
The machine is made up of the magnetised object, the walker and the camera person, who also provides light at night – Its collection includes metal detritus but also the sights and sounds of the journey through the city. I saw this years ago and remembered it wrongly, thinking Alys was driving a magnetised remote control car.
VW Beetle, Wolfsburg Germany, 2003
Alys pushes a VW Beetle through the streets of Wolfsburg in a slow film which evokes Christ’s journey to Golgotha. It is raining and he has to stop periodically to adjust the steering. The car-human is perhaps the most ubiquitous cyborg in the contemporary world and there is an interesting tension between the Alys-Beetle and the more modern human-cars which patiently maneouver around him. He is a pitiful cyborg in his halting journey.
Karl Heinz Jeron, Sim Gishel, a story told to me by Sam Skinner when I first mentioned the subject of my research.
Sim Gishel is a busking robot which performs in various venues, on the street and has entered competitions usually reserved for humans. His rendition of Mad World is both funny and moving as is his awkward dancing which is no less original than say Ian Curtis. The story told to me by Sam involves Sim’s appearance at RichMix, London, 2014. During the set it began to sway so enthusiastically that it fell to the ground and lay twitching on the floor still singing. Although already highly anthropomorphic in character this moment of machinic breakdown seemed to add to the audience’s attachment to it.
Marvin Minsky’s, Ultimate Machine, 1952 – Also called the Useless Machine. Many versions of this machine can be found on YouTube. It is a machine whose sole function is to turn itself off. While it does not breakdown, its function is to cease functioning an act which frustrates the machine human relationship.
Ken Goldberg – A Robot in the Garden blended with Silent Running – Telepresence.
2 jetlagged days in San Francisco with Alan Currall’s, Word Processing, 1995 – forced anthropomorphism and hallucinations
Demers, Shawcross and Stellarc – big things possibly to be avoided.