Exhibition: ‘Artistes & Robots’ at Le Grand Palais in Paris
A delicate nickel apparatus like an astrolabe being fixed to their necks and fitted with animal membranes to record by interpenetration the apparition of each fresh poetic streak, their bodies being bound to their chairs…, so that they could only move a hand in a certain way and the sinuous line was allowed to inscribe the appropriate white cylinders. Meanwhile their friends,`…] would lean over the recording apparatus and with dilated pupils await the expected but unknown movement, sentence, or image.
Salvador Dali, 1932
Artists et Robots, one of the current exhibitions at Grand Palais in Paris, presents the first ever museum exhibition dedicated to the «artificial imagination», a generic term used to group together robotic, generative and algorithmic art. The exhibition is an opportunity to experience works of art produced with the help of increasingly sophisticated robots, featuring pieces by around 40 worldwide renowned artists. The artists presented explore new technologies, including Artificial Intelligence, which is potentially revolutionising human lives and even the conditions in which artworks are produced, presented, disseminated, conserved and received.
For Jérôme Neutres curator of the exhibitions: Medias all over the world speak continuously about AI and its applications in the domestic and industrial fields. We wanted to raise the question of « artificial imagination ». Or: how the techniques of AI are used by artists to create new forms of art, new images. It appears that the IA concept was invented in the Us by John McCarthy in 1954-1956. At that same period artists like Nicolas Schoffer start to create intelligent artistic robots capable to generate art autonomously. The first work presented in the show is the CYSP1 by Schoffer, the first ever dancing robot, dated 1956. Then we explore the theme until the androids by Murakami (2016) and ORLAN (2018), passing through the computer art pioneers Vera Molnar and Manfred Morh, the generative artists Chevalier and Ikam, etc. It is a story about artists in search of new art forms.
In the first part of the exhibition, robots are the ones creating artworks: they are visible and operate using bodies or arms that draw, paint or engrave. The relative facility of their movements is sometimes so ‘physical’ that becomes humanized. Here we find works by Nicolas Schoffer and Nam June Paik. In the second part of the exhibition, the robots are in the realm of IT and no longer visible: they give works their shape, their movement, their generative quality and their ability to interact with the public (in this section works by Iannis Xenakis and Ryoji Ikeda). In the third sequence it is portrayed how Artificial Intelligence helps us trespass the limitations of he body with ever increasing expertise. This is the most troubling sequence as it potentially affects our physical survival. Artists challenging this concept are represented by Stelarc, Christa Sommerer & Jerome Mignonneau, Memo Atken and ORLAN. The provocative French performance artist is presenting a new pieced conceived specially for this exhibition, a video-robot installation “ORLAN et ORLANOIDE, strip-tease électronique et verbal.”
Jerome Neutres explains about the complexity of such a diverse exhibition: The challenge was to establish a script both coherent and attractive, to count this story of 62 years of creative collaboration between artists and robots. Another issue was technical: we wanted to show as a sort of giant artists studio where the robots are creating in live. It means a special setting and a very different format of exhibition compared to traditional paintings shows of the Grand palais… but at the same time they have managed to provide a great experience: since the opening of the show I can see how happy is the audience to interact with immersive works like Raquel Kogan’s or Miguel Chevalier’s. It is in a sense a concretization of Marcel Duchamp’s motto: « this is the viewer who is making the painting »…
The curator aims that the exhibition and the artworks presented force us to reconsider how we measure what it means to be human. They are the object of a joint work involving the artist, the engineer, the robot and we, who modify interactive works in passing. About the future of AI generated art, jerome omens a positive one: Artists dealing with AI and robotic technics open new windows for arts. This is very inspiring for young artists and I can bet that many new artists will invent again new visual worlds thanks to this strategic alliance of the artist and the robots. Also I can see that collectors and museums start to acquire more this kind of art. This is also a good signal.
Text by CLOT Magazine (Twitter @clotmagazine)
(All photos courtesy of Grand Palais, Ryoji Ikeda, Data.tron [WUXGA version], 2011. © Photo Aldo Paredes for Grand Palais, 2018; Peter Kogler, Untitled, 2018. © Photo Aldo Paredes for Grand Palais, 2018)