ArtBots 2003
The Robot Talent Show (July 12-13 '03)
"Wavey Boom" by Shankar Barua
ArtBots 2004

ArtBots is an international art exhibition for robotic art and art-making robots. No firm rules exist on the types of work that can participate; if you think it's a robot and you think it's making art, then it's an art-making robot. Twenty-three artists/groups from six countries participated in the second show, in 2003, which took place at EYEBEAM Gallery in downtown Manhattan through two days (saturday and sunday) with all artists in attendance. Selected works remained installed during the rest of the week as part of EYEBEAM's summer robotics festival, ROBOT. Thanks to the work of very many kind and talented people from around the world the show was a great success. We had well over 2000 visitors, as well as local, national, and international press coverage in print, television, and on the web.

The first ArtBots show took place in May, 2002, and included the work of ten artists and groups. Nearly six hundred people visited the show during its one day run, and the show received very positive coverage in many print and online publications in the USA and internationally, including The New York Times, TimeOutNY,, and the NASA's Cool Robot of the Week site. You can access extensive documentation of the show and participants at:

Although we call ArtBots a talent show, it's really not about competition. It's about celebrating robotic art, and we think there's a lot to celebrate! So we'd like to congratulate all of the participating artists, and thank them again for their generous participation. They're the ones who made it all happen.

Each year we give out two awards: The Audience Choice Award (each visitor gets to vote for her favorite work) and The Robots' Choice Award (the artists vote for their favorite work). The winners for 2003 are:

Audience Choice Award: LEMUR
Robots' Choice Award:
micro.adam & micro.eva

Curators Statement

What, exactly, is an "artbot"? That's a good question, and one we've been thinking about for a long time. It's difficult enough to settle on a good definition of "art" or "robot"; put them together and things really get interesting!

Each artist has her own answer. As curators, our attitude is: "if you think it's a robot and you think it's art, then let's take a look." In a field as young and open as this one, we've tried to encourage people to take chances and to be creative with the idea of an "artbot." Some artists interpret "artbot" as "a device that makes art," while others see it as "a robot that is a work of art." We like both.

For this, the second annual ArtBots show, we received far more entries than we could possibly include. Clearly melding art and robotics is an idea that is in the air. To help narrow the field, we developed some curatorial guidelines. Primary among these is a preference for physical devices that move and systems that have some degree of autonomy.

We also made sure to include small-scale, one-artist works, as well as large, complex, collaborative projects. It's the ideas we value. Robotic technology is accessible technology. Creative artists with big ideas, small budgets, and a healthy dose of the do-it-yourself ethic can create impressive robot-based artworks.

Of course, not every category of artbot is represented in the show. Due to logistical issues we were not able to include robotic theatrical performances, despite several interesting entries. We would like to pursue this in the future.

We hope that the twenty-two works in this year's ArtBots show are as engaging, frustrating, mystifying, entertaining, and affecting for you as they are for us. These works probably ask more questions than they answer, and we think that's a good thing. What is authorship? Can a machine be creative? Who is responsible for the actions of a machine? Can a machine think? Does it matter? Can a non-human be conscious? And what is consciousness, anyway?

We think that this mix of intriguing questions, strange ideas, and sheer, shameless fun is what makes a project like ArtBots worth doing. We hope you will agree.

Douglas Repetto
Philip Galanter
Jenny Lee

Curators, ArtBots: The Robot Talent Show ~ July 12, 2003, New York City

The ArtBots, 2003
50 drones
(David Bowen)

Individuals become the cause of the whole and at the same time are caused by the whole. Identity is constructed through interaction from contact with others within a collective and through a relationship with a specific environment.

Observations of the ways objects in groups, or singular units, behave relative to their surroundings are a great fascination to me. The works often simulate naturally occurring functions or motions. Despite the fact that each unit within a collective group is constructed to identical specifications, they behave in subtly distinctive ways. Acting upon their limited "free will", these individual mechanisms can choose to orient themselves relative to their surroundings based on various stimuli. Individual mechanisms, which arrange themselves in an organic configuration, can be seen to represent particles in a state of disbursement, an active insect colony, or a crowd of people displacing one another.

Documentation of this activity in real time or as trace evidence of a specific interaction with other elements and environmental stimuli serves as a emphasis of these mechanisms' organic-like behavior.

50 drones consists of 50 individual aluminum and PVC units, which vibrate and interact with each other. This interaction creates spastic unpredictable behavior and a persistent buzzing noise. Each unit is tethered by a 120-inch cord that supplies it with power and limits the units' movement to a confined area. The piece is on a timer that allows it to run continuously for five minutes every hour.

David Bowen (1975) is a second year MFA student at the University of Minnesota where he has worked closely with the Mechanical Engineering department. He received his BFA in 1999 from Herron School of Art, Indiana University. Bowen has also exhibited his work nationally and was an instructor at Herron School of Art from 2000 to 2001.

Acknowledgements: Support for David Bowen's participation in ArtBots was provided by The University of Minnesota Art Department.

Automated Architecture Robot
(Ira Spool and Anna Tsypin)

Architects have often searched for a more modern, technological or up-to-date way of designing buildings. This piece explores what is possibly the ultimate direction of architectural advancement: Having a robot direct the design.

The Automated Architecture Robot creates a building design with organic, curved surfaces in one hour. The design is presented as a 1:50 scale model (Materials: Ice and light).

The robot sculpts a block of ice into an organic form using water (The water is stored and recycled by the robot). Every 10 minutes the sculpting stops and the robot's water tubes move into their "stored" positions. Doors, windows and other architectural elements are projected onto the ice with a slide projector. Visitors can influence the outcome of the sculpted architectural model by making adjustments to a large control knob. They can choose between "Palatial Home," "Discreet Home," "Mixed-Use Development," "Company Branch Office," or "Company Headquarters." The robot will do its best to create the home/office of their dreams.

Ira Spool and Anna Tsypin recently relocated from Brooklyn, NY to Brookline, MA. Ira is a design engineer who has worked with a number of NYC industrial design firms and other clients on such projects as the Spider Table for Herman Miller, the Pocket PC Phone for T-Mobile, and a miniature bubble machine built into the head of a life size human sculpture. Anna is an artist and designer. Her exhibited artwork has included sketches, paintings, and hand drawn animations.

(Stefan Prosky w/ help from Tati Kaupp)

Animators have long been interested in animating the inanimate. What bored school-kid hasn't been caught playing spaceship with a pencil? The luxo desk lamp by Pixar is a beautiful animated exposition of this kind of daydream. BabyBott is my attempt at an appealing robotic icon. I chose a robotic form because I thought it would be more engaging, magical and lifelike than video. I've been looking for a more culturally charged inanimate object to animate. A baby bottle is the first tool that most of us learn to use. It is also already form of robot really......if you think about it. (It's a robot breast.) No, I won't make a bott that just squirts folks with milk. I think it's much more interesting to personify a baby bottle as a baby with simple, unsure movement, and interactive infant audio. BabyBott is also intended to mess with what folks expect when they hear the word robot. I'd like to expand the armored metal pizza box & plastic pet motifs. I hope that the cognitive dissonance created by Babybott will remind the viewer of their childhood and make them contemplate parenthood in a whimsical way. What IS BabyBott's Talent? It will get you to take care of it.

In addition to studying animation & cell biology, Stefan J. Prosky makes art toys and installations that seem to have the character of life. The Squax is a handheld musical instrument/puppet that changes its pitch/sound quality when it is moved around a light source. Mammalball is a fur covered radio-controlled robot that purrs and squeaks based on how it is driven. He has created a group of 10 small solar powered robots that will draw abstract chance based pictures. This drawing BEAM ecology/performance is called SYMET Studio. Prosky also has a strong interest in digital video. The interactive video short Duped investigates the notion of the control of time using a combination of biological & digital tools. His masters thesis Food Secret Extraction Interface is an interactive audio/visual installation, which humorously investigates the trustworthiness of food. BabyBott is an interactive art robot that explores the end user's views of parenthood and responsibility. All these pieces attempt to create the illusion of life to please the viewer and pollinate their cultural meme type.

chair de poule
(Brad Todd)

chair de poule ("goosebumps" English) is a telerobotic work which incorporates a book interface covered with a grid of pins to trap dust (13 years...) and provide a surface for sonic manipulation. The book is played by dragging a tiny microphone attached to a lock of my deceased father's hair through the pins and dust. The hair is close mic'd at the point of contact and generates a minimalist soundscape which is created by manipulating a small robotic mechanism from the website interface. The video image is a live feed of the book/pin/dust/hair construction and the interaction takes place in real time.

Brad Todd lives in Montréal, Canada. He completed a M.F.A. from Concordia University in Montréal in 1993. Todd is an instructor in the Digital Fine Arts program at Concordia University where he teaches studio based courses. His area of interest in the arts is in using digital technologies to animate physical objects and tableaus on the Net and in actual environments. Todd has been making Net based projects since 1997, which incorporated more traditional forms of technology driven media such as video, audio and animation and now makes Telerobotic works which are experienced and manipulated via the Web. Recent exhibitions of Web based projects include: FILE (Brasil, 2001), The New Museum of Contemporary Art (N.Y.C., 2001), ISEA 2002 (Nagoya, Japan), Musée du Québec (Québec, 2002), and Viper (Basel, Switzerland, 2002).

Todd is also a co-founder of the on-line digital arts journal MobileGaze:

Drawing Machine 3.1415926 v.2
(Fernando Orellana - 2000)
wood, aluminum, steel, glass, motor, custom electronics, slip rings, Mylar, Papermate pen

Drawing Machine 3.1415926 v.2 explores the possibility of creating machinery or systems that create art objects on their own. In this case, the machine has been designed to listen to its environment (using a series of microphones installed around the gallery) as a method for generating the drawings it makes. What it hears is interpreted by the machines software and used as the primary driver or inspiration, to make complex, non-representational drawings. Since the noise the machine hears is relative to the given event or venue, the drawings generated can be said to be the machine's interpretation or portrait of that experience. In addition to the machines random drawing method and "listening" capabilities, viewers of the piece will be able to collaborate with the machine by talking, singing, screaming or making any other noise into a near by microphone. Using several Papermate(tm) ball point pens (blue ink), the machine will generate one drawing measuring 4' x 4' over the length of the ArtBots exhibition, including at night when there are no gallery visitors present. Previous drawings that Drawing Machine 3.1415926 v.2 has made in Chicago, IL and Columbus, Oh will be on display on a near by wall.

Fernando Orellana was born in El Salvador, San Salvador in 1973 and immigrated to Florida in 1979. There he received his high school diploma and began university education at Broward Community College. Soon after, he moved to Chicago, Illinois where he studied at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago receiving his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Art and Technology.

He has exhibited in galleries nationally and internationally including, 1/Quarterly gallery (Chicago, IL.), Swanson-Read Gallery (Louisville, KY), Siggraph 2002 (San Antonio, TX), MACC Gallery (Moberly, MO), The Late Show (Kansas City, MO), Sotheby's/Artlink galleries (Tele Aviv, London, and New York), The Freeark Gallery (Chicago, IL.), Gallery 2 (The Art Institute of Chicago), The Betty Rymer Gallery (The Art Institute of Chicago), The School of the Art Institute of Chicago's BFA exhibition, The Contemporary Art Work Shop (Chicago, IL.), The EGG Gallery (Chicago, IL.), and others. He has also shown in collaboration with (art)n Laboratory at The Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Siggraph 2000/2001, Art Chicago 2000/2001, Chicago Midway Airport (Battle of Midway Monument) and others. He has received The Edith-Fergus Gilmore Materials grant from OSU (2003), The School of The Art Institute's BFA fellowship award (1998), the Koppler Grant from UIC (2000), Art Link/Sotheby's International Young Art Competition Finalist (1999), Missouri State Arts Council Grant (2001) and The Broward Community College Merit Award (1995). He has been reviewed in The Leonardo Electronic Almanac in conjunction with sine::apsis (1998), NPR (WFPL _ FM Radio) 7min. preview segment (2002), The Pitch, KC (2001) and The Chicago Reader (2000). He has also lectured at The University of Illinois at Chicago, University of Southern California, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Northwestern University and Moberly Community College. He has also recently completed an Artist-in-Residency at Moberly Area Community College, MO.

He is currently a graduate student at The Ohio State University studying in their Art & Technology program, continuing his research into machine/sculpture automata, robotics, Artificial Life and painting.

more info:

Drums of War
(Rahul Bhargava and Mira Friedlander)

Drums of War (DOW) gives viewers an auditory display of the current war status of regions across the globe. Viewers are invited to plug small drums into a large map of the world, split into numerous geographical regions. If the war-likelihood in that region is high, the connected drum will beat quickly. If the war-likelihood in that region is low, the connected drum will beat slowly. Plugging in a number of drums allows viewers to compare the chance of conflict in various parts of the world.

Originally envisioned as an installation for the headquarters of the United States' Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), DOW joins a growing family of ambient information displays. DOW gathers information from a variety of online public news sources, distilling relevant content down to a single index of war-likelihood. This rating is mapped to the beating of drums. This drumming echoes both the tribal communication patterns of Native Americans and the drummer-boys who accompanied western European armies in generations of combat. It also serves as a concentrated info source to replace the onslaught of todays news and war-reportage.

This reinterpretation of distributed data into the simple and classic notion of beating the "drums of war" leaves the passerby with an audible perception of unrest across the globe.

Rahul Bhargava is the founder and director of the Institute of the Future. The Institute focuses on creating computational tools that empower end users as designers, and tools that allow people to interact with others in new and unique ways. A recent hit from the Institute is the interactive "Am I Hot Or Not: Party Edition", which allows party-goers to rate each other using their Palm Pilot PDAs. Rahul also creates technologies for workshops he runs with children, helping them build their own interactive robotic sculptures.

Mira Friedlaender is an artist working with concerns of intersubjective conflict and struggle as a part of human achievement and culture. She works across disciplines and is currently working towards her MFA in Visual Art at NYU.

more info: Institute of the Future ~

Fotron2000 (FOE-tron-too-THAU-zin(d))
(Dan Paluska, Jessica Banks, jackbackrack ~ 2003)
very mixed media and emotions

The Fotron2000 is tomorrow's answer to today's mall photo booth. At its heart is a robotic sketch artist whose medium is LED light and whose canvas is long exposed Polaroid film. The robot draws quickly, rendering a line drawing of its subject which he or she gets to keep. The Fotron2000 "brings good things to light."

This work was inspired by the classic time-lapse nighttime highway photography, the Photoshop "glowing edges" filter, and "drawing" with sparklers. The piece is a simple exploration of the ability of a robot and a computer to automate the creation of art. We are interested in the ability to provide visitors with a permanent record of their experience and engage robotic technology in an impractical way. The robot provides us with precision capabilities beyond our own, allowing us to create in ways not possible without technological assistance.

Dan Paluska is a roboticist by day at Yobotics, Inc., a small research company in the Boston area. He is active in the arts and music around the Boston area. He founded the MIT student arts group ATat, which continues to hold regular events on campus featuring art and technology. He plays drums in the band Bucky Spins and hosts electronic music events with others in Unlockedgroove.

Jessica Banks is mostly a Ph.D. candidate in robotics at MIT's Artificial Intelligence Lab after what now seem like short stints as an undergraduate physicist and an entertainment industry sore thumb. She views life as a long process of elimination, enjoys the sense of completion of running out of toothpaste, and refers to Dan's electronic music (see above) as "audio water torture." She intends to start up a robotic furniture company and get a real dog after she graduates.

jackbackrack is a research scientist at MIT's Artificial Intelligence Lab. He is the founder of the COLLISIONcollective and in collaboration with Dan produces art/technology exhibitions at MIT called Collisions. Beyond messing with electricity, he plays and dances to traditional west African rhythms.

more info:

Acknowledgements: The artists would like to thank the Polaroid Collections for its contribution as well as Aaron Edsinger, Henry Kaufman, and Jeff Weber for help along the way.

Happy Feet
(Stephen Turbek)

Happy Feet is an installation of 5 pairs of elegant footwear. Each shoe is mechanically articulated, enabling it to tap. The shoes are then free to dance, to create chorus line patterns, to interact with the audience.

Stephen Turbek is a native New Yorker whose work involves furniture, architecture, interactivity. He teaches at Pratt Institute.

(David Webber, Keith Waters, Berwick Research Institute)

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LEMUR: League of Electronic Musical Urban Robots
(GuitarBot: Eric Singer, Kevin Larke, David Bianciardi; !rBot ("chik-r-bot"): Jeff Feddersen, Milena Iossifova, Michelle Cherian, Brendan J. FitzGerald, Ahmi Wolf; ShivaBot: Kyle Lapidus, Jonathan Huggins, Clay Lacefield; TibetBot: Chad Redmon, Kate Chapman

LEMUR - League of Electronic Musical Urban Robots - is a Brooklyn-based group of artists and technologists developing robotic musical instruments. LEMUR's philosophy is to build robotic instruments that "play themselves." In LEMUR designs, the robots are the instruments. We seek to create machines which intimately integrate the instruments with the robotics.

At ArtBots, LEMUR presented four musical robots. GuitarBot, an electric stringed instrument, is comprised of four independently controllable stringed units which can pick and slide extremely rapidly. It is designed to extend - not simply duplicate - the capabilities of a human guitarist. !rBot (pronounced "chick-r-bot") fuses traditional musical instruments with mechanical design. Inspired by the human mouth, its malleable cavity opens to expose and play a Peruvian goat-hoof rattle. TibetBot is a robotically controlled percussive instrument that creates atonal rhythms and tonal droning soundscapes. It is designed around three Tibetan singing bowls, which are struck by six robotic arms, producing a wide range of timbres. ShivaBot is a four-armed six-foot tall drumming robot, based on the Indian god Shiva and designed around a traditional Indian lap drum. It also accommodates a variety of drums and other percussion instruments, such as bells, chimes and cymbals.

LEMUR was founded in 2000 by Eric Singer as a group of individuals sharing a common interest in robotic musical instruments. LEMUR is made up by artists and technologists with expertise in robotics engineering, instrument design, sculpture, graphic design, performance art, electrical engineering and computer programming.

more info:

Acknowledgements: We would like to thank the Rockefeller Foundation for their generous support of the LEMUR project.

(Ranjit Bhatnagar -2003)
found objects, servomotors, carillon keyboard, custom circuitry, theremin and microprocessors

Lev is a machine for playing a theremin.

Lev is named after Lev Termen or Leon Theremin, a Russian scientist who invented one of the first electronic musical instruments, an instrument which is played without touching, and which bears his name.

Lev is made out of an old floor lamp, some plumbing supplies, a few empty mint tins, and some microprocessors.

Lev will never replace the human theremin virtuoso, although, as there are so few of the latter, a mechanical substitute may someday be vital to our economy.

Ranjit Bhatnagar's digital and interactive works have been exhibited internationally and occasionally since 1987. Recent works include Sketching Device #1 at last year's Artbots, Sensitive Research for SIGGRAPH 2003, some circus sideshow banners, and a sock monkey. He works at gameLab and lives in Brooklyn with a part-time dog and some cacti.

more info:

MEART - "The semi living artist"
(SymbioticA Research Group in collaboration with The Steve Potter Lab ~ Douglas Bakkum, Guy Ben-Ary, Dr. Stuart Bunt,
Oron Catts, Phil Gamblen, Steve M. Potter, Ian Sweetman, Ionat Zurr)

MEART - The Semi Living Artist is a geographically detached, bio-cybernetic project exploring aspects of creativity and artistry in the age of biological technologies and the future possibilities of creating semi living entities. It investigates our abilities and intentions in dealing with the emergence of a new class of beings (whose production may lie far in the future) that may be sentient, creative and unpredictable. Meart takes the basic components of the brain (isolated neurons) attaches them to a mechanical body through the mediation of a digital processing engine to attempt and create an entity that will seemingly evolve, learn and become conditioned to express its growth experiences through "art activity". The combined elements of unpredictability and "temperament" with the ability to learn and adapt, creates an artistic entity that is both dependent, and independent, from its creator and its creator's intentions.

MEART is assembled from:
"Wetware" - cultured neurons from embryonic rat cortex grown over the Multi Electrode Array
"Hardware" - the robotic (drawing) arm
"Software" - that interfaces between the wetware and the hardware
We will set up MEART 's Brain - the living neural cultures - in Steve Potter's lab (Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta). Steve is applying different technologies to study dissociated cultures of hundreds or thousands of mammalian neurons. In his lab a multi channel neural recording from MEART 's brain will be performed. The data sets, extracted from the living neurons, will be processed in two locations - Atlanta & in the Eyebeam Gallery. The outcome will be used to control the drawing arm and to stimulate the neurons as feedback. A series of experiments will be performed in order to explore the relationships between the input/stimulation to the neuronal culture and the output/drawings. For example, a web cam will capture portraits of some of the viewers within the gallery space. This image will be then and the progress of the drawing will be converted into a "stimulation blue print" and will be used to stimulate the neurons.

Douglas Bakkum (Steve Potter's Lab)
Born in USA, lived in Slovakia and France. Received a BS and MS in Mechanical Engineering which provided insight into the workings of the physical world, but he is now interested in the workings of the mind and its perception of the physical world. Currently a doctoral student in the Bioengineering Department at Georgia Tech under the guidance of Steve Potter. Interested in embodying cultured neurons with robots to study the importance of environment in the processes of neural networks.

Guy Ben Ary (SymbioticA Research Group)
Biological Artist. Born in USA (1967), lived in Israel and Australia. Currently living and working in WA. Artist is residence in SymbioticA - The art & science collaborative lab (since 2000). Manager of the Image Analysis and Acquisition Facility (IAAF), Department of Anatomy and Human Biology, UWA. Specialising in light microscopy, biological and digital imaging. Member of the Tissue Culture & Art Project (joined in 1999). Trained in programming, web development & Law (LLB).

Oron Catts (SymbioticA Research Group)
Tissue engineer artist. Born in Finland, lived in Israel and Australia. Co-Founder and Artistic Director of SymbioticA - The Art & Science Collaborative Research Laboratory at The School of Anatomy & Human Biology, University of Western Australia. Founder of the Tissue Culture and Art Project (1996). Research fellow at The Tissue Engineering & Organ Fabrication Laboratory, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School (2000-2001). Trained in product design, and specialized in the future interaction of design and biological derived technologies.

Phil Gamblen (SymbioticA Research Group)
Born in the UK in 1964. Migrated to Canada in 1966. Trained and worked as a gem cutter in the 1980's. Resettled in WA in 1991 after two years of travel. Graduated from Claremont School of Art in 1996 and Curtin University of Technology in 1998 with an Honours Degree in Fine Art, majoring in sculpture. Current artworks utilize motion and light to investigate technological aspects of today's culture, the overlap of art and science and the re-use of obsolete and discarded materials.

Steve M. Potter (Steve Potter's Lab)
is the product of an artistic mother and a scientific father, who fostered both creativity and curiosity. As a result, he is perhaps more interested in the aesthetics and presentation of scientific data than most scientists, eager to make it interesting for the general public. He got his undergraduate degree in biochemistry at the Univ. of California, San Diego, and his PhD in neurobiology at the Univ. of California, Irvine. He worked as a postdoctoral scientist 8 years at the California Institute of Technology, developing tools to study living neuronal networks. He is now a professor of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta.

Dr. Stuart Bunt (SymbioticA Research Group)
Co-founder of SymbioticA, the first art and biology lab situated in a science department. Have consulted and lectured on the nexus between Art/Science and Technology, exhibited in Ars Electronica and collaborated or helped produce a number of biotech art pieces revolving around emergent technologies in the biosciences. Background in science and the arts (Director/co-founder SymbioticA). Senator at the University of Western Australia, chief executive biomedical software spin off company, Paradigm Diagnostics,and founder of the Image Acquisition and Analysis Facility, UWA.

Ian Sweetman (SymbioticA Research Group)
Through an eclectic and undistinguished career Iain Sweetman is uniquely unqualified in, but has at one time or another earned a living from; photography, bacteriology, pulmonary physiology, bass playing, record production, sound engineering, neurobiologly, forensic anthropology, maths, applied computer science, network administration, artificial intelligence, strange art projects involving fish and robots and, tentatively, haptics . He still does not know what he wants to do with his life, but if he ever gets paid what he thinks the world owes him, travelling around the world with a bicycle, a tent and a credit card is a strong possibility.

Ionat Zurr (SymbioticA Research Group)
Wet Biology art practitioner. Born in England, lived in Israel and Australia. Artist in residence in SymbioticA - The Art & Science Collaborative Research Laboratory at The School of Anatomy & Human Biology, University of Western Australia. Co-Founder of the Tissue Culture and Art Project. Research fellow at The Tissue Engineering & Organ Fabrication Laboratory, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School(2000-2001) Studied photography and media studies, specializing in biological and digital imaging, as well as video production.

more info:

Acknowledgements: Support for MEART was provided by SymbioticA: the Art & Science Collaborative Research Lab and ArtsWA in association with the lotteries Commission.

micro.adam & micro.eva
(julius popp)

"Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they perceived that they were naked". (Genesis 3.7)

micro.adam and micro.eva are two simple robots who will discover their own bodies and develop body-consciousness on a minimal basis. Like Adam and Eve in paradise became conscious and had to leave the garden, now micro.adam and micro.eva, two machines, are about to cross the border.

The main intention of this work is to find a way to visualize and analyze the complex processes of cognition, communication, and adaptation of living systems. I use robots because the behavior of machines is reproducible, analyzable, and in its complexity controllable. micro.adam and micro.eva are the first two robots I have built to find a scientific system with which to formulate my thoughts. In cooperation with the Fraunhofer Institute for Autonomous Intelligent Systems (AIS) I have created two simple and fault proof validation robots for AI.

Both robots, circular in design and only different in their inner complexity, are placed in a reduced environment. The robots are limited to one degree of freedom, the (double meaning) rotation about themselves. The robots' motion, rolling on two wheels mounted to a wall, is archived by moving an inward facing actuator. This changes the robot's balancing point, forcing the body to turn to a new balanced position. The robot's turning and rolling is a visualization of the controller's learning progress -- a picture of the emerging body-consciousness.

My aim is to find self-adapting algorithms which feel and learn the robot's body behavior, initially not knowing anything about it. The two robots should be 'born' with the same 'empty' programs, which then must form themselves according to the specific body characteristics of each robot. The better these programs know their bodies over time, learning their body characteristics (in that specific environment), the more harmonically they will rotate. Simple body consciousness emerges.

The developed "form" of the program describes the behavior of the robot exposed to one environment. By measuring the movement, the algorithms can be benchmarked. Different algorithms, environments, and bodies can be tested, visualised and evaluated. When different patterns emerge, characteristics of body, environment, and controller can be pointed out.

At the moment an AIS-Team ( ) headed by Dr. Frank Pasemann is working on the two robots. They are creating neurocontrollers with a technique based on an ALife approach to evolutionary robotics.

Monkey on Your Back
(Kal Spelletich/SEEMEN)

SEEMEN build machines and robots that a live audience can operate. This is an art that is a mix of robots, machines, sculpture, computers, science, inventions, audience interaction and storytelling. We are only interested in giving audiences a real life experience, not a passive virtual one.

We believe that vision, robotics, language, fear, bodily functions (Breathing, eating/chewing, heartbeat, talking, touching, sexual arousal, lie detectors, breathalyzers) are some of the keys to understanding something deeper than just technology. So we are using the organic human body and its bodily functions to operate robots (to trigger/turn them on and off). Hence to make the volunteers cyborgs. Humans themselves become part of "the Machine". To attempt to meld machines and humans to become one organism. We are margenalized people in technologically-enhanced cultural "systems", that there is a "system" which dominates the lives of most "ordinary" people, true artists are those who live on its margins, on "the Edge": criminals, outcasts, visionaries or those who simply want freedom for its own sake. Art as a form of subversion.

We aspire to make machines that are therapeutic, that are interfaces between man and robots, that use as a medium, fear, sexuality and submission. Experimenting with triggering the classic "fight or flight" response producing an adrenaline induced euphoria as you face and escape death. The same part of the brain lights up for both pleasure and pain (super hot foods, the "burn" from a hellacious workout, Giving birth, eating, gambling, recreational drugs, bungee jumping, skydiving, thrill sports).

We are not trying to humble volunteers with technology, rather empower them by letting them operate custom made machines that can literally spin, shake, engulf in fire and sound, lift and throw you. We are able to make the volunteers a "star" by putting them in the spotlight. The work attempts to challenge both the applications of technology and the boundaries between the audience and performers. In the end we are encountering our demons which are our own limitations. The machines and their interactions with the audience reinvent technology as its own antithesis - it is no longer the use of machines to replace people or do things they can't, instead the machines facilitate the thing that only humans can do: feel.

SEEMEN is the collaborative effort of Kal Spelletich and some forty odd art drop outs and extreme technology inventors who enjoy building extreme machines and robots that they allow their audience to operate.


This is an art that is a mix of robots, machines, sculpture, computers, science, inventions, audience interaction and storytelling. We are only interested in giving audiences a real life experience, not a passive virtual one. The actions of their robots poetically symbolize mans struggles and triumphs.

Since their formation in 1988 in Austin, Texas, SEEMEN have presented more than 1000 performances and experiments throughout the United States, Canada and Europe at numerous art institutions and other venues, including night clubs, warehouses, and freeway underpasses. In 1990 they moved to San Francisco. Since 1995 SEEMEN have been the featured performers at the renowned Burning Man festivals held annually in Black Rock, Nevada, Their works have been exhibited at the Jack Hanley Gallery, Jeffery Deitch Gallery NYC and a zillion other places. They are included in the collections of the New York Museum of Modern Art and the Getty Museum. SEEMEN have received numerous grant awards from The Jerome Foundation, Art Matters, Art Without Walls, and many others.

more info:

Acknowledgements: Support for Kal Spelletich's participation in ArtBots was provided by The Madagascar Institute. Thanks to Jonathan Foote for electrical engineering help. Monkey on Your Back photo: Rudy Rucker. Kal Spelletich photo: Karen Marcello

(Jason Van Anden)

The Smile Project is a vehicle for representing my understanding of human behavior and emotional responses. It combines all of the spheres of my experience into one being, Neil. He is empowered with the ability to "emote" through the use of physical gesture, sound and animated facial expressions. Neil represents four years of experimentation with artificial intelligence, hardware and papier-mâché.

My inspiration for creating this interactive artwork came from observing fellow members of my group therapy. The goal of our therapy is for each member of the group to try and comprehend how and why people behave as they do in order to impose logic and understanding on our own behavior and the behavior of others in the world. Fortuitously, about the same time I started therapy, I began to consider the unique potential of computer technology as a tool for expression. Initially, I explored this by creating two-dimensional video game like simulations that abstractly illustrated challenges I experienced or saw played out in the group. On a deeply personal level, I understand that the manner in which I work is a sublimation of a childhood compulsion of mine to understand (and control) my environment.

I hope the viewer experiences a new level of interaction when meeting Neil for the first time. I am personally curious to observe what will take place once this simulation is let loose to do what it will and I believe that the experience will have an enduring impact on its audience.

Jason Van Anden arrived in New York City in 1990, hoping to become an artist, after graduating from Syracuse University with a degree in sculpture. Shortly thereafter, he discovered that his computer programming skills could be a great way to survive while pursuing his dream. He spent most of the nineties riding the high tech wave, developing applications for a variety of clients, under his corporation Quadrant 2, Inc. In 1998 he took a break from software development to return to his original love of making art, and started upon a series of graphite drawings that would form the foundation of The Smile Project. The Smile Project combines his two greatest loves: technology and sculpting. He has used his self-taught computer skill to simulate thinking and cognition and his fine art training to give birth to Neil.

more info:

Jason Van Anden - Artist and Software Architect
David Liatti - Electrical Engineer
Fredrick Grim - Software Engineer, Mathematician, Game Theorist
Wesley Martel - Metal Fabrication
John Wells - Mechanical Consultant
Nicholas McGaughey - Casting and Materials Consultant
Jeffery Fillipini - Software Developer

(Leesa and Nicole Abahuni)

re-capacitance is a cumulative project that began at the 6th International Arts Biennial of Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, on April 8, 2003, just 19 days after President Bush officially declared war on Iraq. In the U.A.E., graffiti and protests are not permitted by law, but it appeared to us that this installation had provided an outlet for their expressions that could not otherwise be displayed. At EYEBEAM we have reconstructed the installation in hopes that New Yorkers will create their own robot/human graffiti in response to the writings from the local Arabic and international visitors to the Biennial. We wish to foster a cross cultural exchange using primitive technology and interactive art as a vehicle of communication.

Leesa and Nicole Abahuni are artists and twins based in New York who collaborate on investigations of the senses through electronic installations and performances. Their mechanical counterparts have exhibited and performed at the 6th International Arts Biennial of Sharjah, UAE; Tokyo, Japan; DUMBO Arts Center and Art Under the Bridge Festival, Star 67, Goliath, Brooklyn, NY; The Kitchen Street Fair, NYC; Deep Listening Gallery, Kingston, NY; Siggraph Digital Arts Convention, Los Angeles; The New York Hall of Science. This summer they will also be exhibiting at The Halfmachine festival in Copenhagen. Their awards include the Finishing Funds Grant from the Experimental Television Center, and the Alumni Award from the School of Visual Arts.

Acknowledgements: We would like to thank Sheika Hoor Al-Qasimi of Sharjah, U.A.E., Peter Lewis of Goldsmith's U.K., and ArtBots for granting us this opportunity for a cross cultural exchange.

Robots like H20: Photosynthesis Perpetual Motion Machine
(Futurefarmers: Amy Franceschini/Michael Swaine)

Amy Franceschini and Michael Swaine have been working together collaboratively since 1999. With an aim to cultivate consciousness, Franceshini/Swaine create projects which explore rituals of human and natural systems. They have been commissioned by Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum and The Exploratorium to realize interdisciplinary, site-specific projects. Together Franceschini and Swaine continue pursue a constant inquiry into the role of technology within sustainable environmental projects.

Amy Franceschini was born in 1970 in Patterson, California. She received her BFA from San Francisco State University (1992), and a MFA from Stanford University (2002). She is currently teaching at the San Francisco Art Institute. Amy is the founder of Futurefarmers, an artists collective and design studio. In 1995, she co-founded the internet's first web zine: Atlas Magazine. Since that time, she has developed multimedia projects and taught workshops internationally for galleries and festivals alike.

Michael Swaine was born in Buffalo, New York and received his BFA from Alfred University. Michael has worked in conjunction with the Exploratorium on several projects, most recently, Traits of Life. Michael recieved a grant from CCAC and the National Endowment for the Arts to be a "Roving Tailor" who sews for free in the streets of San Francisco.

more info:

(Stijn Slabbinck)

The Scratchrobot is an installation based on two turntables, a computer and a robot-arm. When an e-mail is sent to , the message will be analyzed and then turned into signals that control the robot. They make it scratch a series of sounds, which are recorded and sent back to the sender of the e-mail. The spectators are invited to interact with the system by activating the robot with their personal input. Every e-mail results in a unique sound.

Scratchrobot was invented while questioning different ways of communication, its patterns and code systems. Building it was an attempt to "control" the daily info-flow in a multimedia way.

Create your own sound by sending an e-mail to The scratchrobot will scratch your message and reply in a unique way.

Stijn Slabbinck (1976) graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Ghent where he studied 3d-multimedia. Three years ago, he founded the company SPESS, which provides technical support for events, film and theater productions. Stijn Slabbinck has always been particularly interested in VJ-performances, automation and special effects, which consequently exerted great influence on his latest work.

more info:

Shootings (After Francisco de Goya)
(Han Gene Paik - 2003)
plastic dolls, plaster, vitrine, computer, microcontroller, custom circuitry and software

Here presented are the world's most unintelligent robots; your beloved brothers and sisters, the timid body and soul. They shoot, scream and cripple being simply obedient to the script I wrote. In reality, however, the automata fail to follow the script due to their faulty consciousness, which only means they are obviously more intelligent than the creator. The more complicated the script becomes, the more likely they suffer from being wise. And yet, all of this hardly matters as long as the audience is unaware of how deceptive the whole scene is.

Han Gene Paik is an artist who resides and works in NYC. He is currently working with optics, pixels, pornography, and computing machines for his next project on obscene devices. His work was recently shown at the Rotunda Gallery in Brooklyn, NY.

Slowscan Soundwave
(Douglas Irving Repetto - 2003)
wood, metal rod, spring, plastic sheets, motors, microcontroller

In the physical world, transmutation is never perfect. Slowscan Soundwave is one in a series of pieces that attempt to create simple physical manifestations of complex physical, biological, and social phenomena.

Sound travels through open spaces via the compression and rarefaction (expansion) of air molecules. For example, as the head of a drum vibrates, it pushes and pulls at the air around it. That pushing and pulling creates areas of higher and lower air pressure, which propagate out from the source in waves. Slowscan Soundwave uses a microphone to sample the ambient air pressure in its environment. It then uses those samples to change the alignment of seventy nine suspended plastic sheets in an attempt to create a visible analog to those constantly changing pressure fronts.

Even the simplest of sounds is too complex, and changes too quickly, to be accurately represented by plastic sheets slowly moving this way and that. As a result the patterns formed by Slowscan Soundwave are a crude approximation of those formed in the air.

The goal of these pieces is not perfection or precision. I am entranced by the strange and beautiful, but often invisible, intangible, and inaudible phenomena that surround us. These pieces are an (imperfect) attempt to make those elusive phenomena more clearly perceptible.

Douglas Irving Repetto is an artist and teacher. He lives in New York City and works at the Columbia University Computer Music Center. His work, including installations, performances, recordings, software, and lectures has been presented internationally. He runs a number of arts/community-oriented groups in New York City and on the web, including dorkbot: people doing strange things with electricity ( ), ArtBots: The Robot Talent Show ( ), organism: making art with living systems ( ), and the music-dsp mailing list ( ). When not teaching or making art, Douglas spends much of his time cooking, coveting buildings, and socializing with members of the plant kingdom. He is married to writer Amy Charlotte Benson.

more info:

small work for robot and insects
(host productions ~ andy gracie, brian lee dae yung, gary burns)

small work for robot and insects stages an attempt to establish communication between a colony of insects (one of the most ancient of all life forms) and a robot (rapidly becoming one of the most advanced). the robot has a neural network brain with which it listens to, analyses and generates responses to the calls of insects with sequences of motion, lights and sounds. over an indeterminate period the robot and insects should be able to evolve a vocabulary and effective language. what we see is a snapshot of that process.

alongside the robot and cricket communication, the piece has a foundation as a sound installation. throughout the duration of the piece the calls of the insects are sampled and stored into buffers which are processed in real time and added into the environment.

host productions is a vehicle for the work of uk digital artist andy gracie and various and numerous collaborators. over the past seven years host productions have been producing sound based installations and performances throughout the uk in a wide range of venues, as well as showing collaborative work in japan and australia. recently the work has begun to involve more complex mechanical systems and notions of communication, particularly between ostensibly different entities. future plans involve the use of other robotic systems and moving to a sunnier lifestyle in barcelona.

more info: (temporary site)

Acknowledgements: 'small work for robot and insects' is a Breathing Space commission. Breathing Space is a revolutionary commissioning and touring scheme initiated by Arnolfini Live in Bristol. Funded by Art Council England's National Touring Programme.

The Watchers - Televisuality for Xenia
(John S. Lathram lll)

The Watchers - Televisuality for Xenia explores the concept of gallery behavior. Xenia observes the exhibition space, be it art object or patron. With the attention of a six year old, she may become bored and turn away. Or she may communicate information in a secret language to another work of art.

The Watchers - Televisuality for Xenia is a part of the evolution of the artist's ideas involving the use of man-made materials and organic structures. Xenia is composed of Salix Tortuosa (Curly Willow), universal joints, cameras, vines, springs, and a host of electronic components and programming that allow her to follow an observer in the room. The two works that comprise the installation represent the idea of communication on several levels. The development of each work allows for a society of parts to function as a whole. Each entity interacts with the gallery audience, thus forming another, larger society.

John Sherman Lathram III currently resides in Columbus, Ohio. He is a MFA candidate in Art and Technology at The Ohio State University. He is in the midst of working on the outdoor installation, Salix Robotix Motum that requires the implantation of sensors and plant prosthetics in living willows. The sensors will record the environment and send data to a 3-d modeling program, which will produce a physical object based on those coordinates via a rapid prototype program. The prosthetics will react to human presence.

more info:

Acknowledgements: Support for John S. Lathram III's participation in ArtBots was provided by the Elizabeth Fergus Gilmore Fund through the Ohio State University.


ArtBots Curators

Douglas Irving Repetto
Douglas Irving Repetto is an artist and teacher. He lives in New York City and works at the Columbia University Computer Music Center. His work, including installation, performance, recordings, software, and lectures has been presented internationally. He runs a number of arts/community-oriented groups in New York City and on the web, including dorkbot: people doing strange things with electricity ,ArtBots: The Robot Talent Show ,organism: making art with living systems , and the music-dsp mailing list . When not teaching or making art, Douglas spends much of his time cooking, coveting buildings, and socializing with members of the plant kingdom. He is married to writer Amy Charlotte Benson.


Philip Galanter
(M.F.A., School of Visual Arts; B.A. Eastern Illinois University)
Philip Galanter is currently the Associate Director for Arts Technology at New York University. In addition he is adjunct faculty at NYU's Interactive Telecommunications Program where he created the course "Foundations of Generative Art Systems".

His current artistic work includes custom hardware systems, analog and digital video, digital fine art prints, and installations. He also has earlier experience in performance art, and electronic, experimental and pop music. In addition Philip has created MIDI music software products for Hybrid Arts, and firmware for electronic games at Williams Electronics.

Along with his ArtBots activities, Philip has recently spoken on the the Fine Art / Complexity Science nexus at the International Conference on Complexity Science and the Complexity and Philosophy Workshop. Philip chaired a session called "Complexity and Emergence" at this year's College Art Association meeting in New York City. He also organized with the artist Ellen K. Levy COMPLEXITY, the first fine art exhibition addressing art and complex systems. COMPLEXITY opened at the Dorsky Museum at SUNY New Paltz, and will travel later this year to the Gallery of the Federtal Reserve Bank in Washington D.C. and the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.


Jenny Lee
Jenny Lee is a sculptor and teacher. She is a graduate of The Cooper Union and teaches welding and sculpture in the Fine Arts Department at Pratt Institute. She has exhibited extensively in galleries, arts organizations and museums. She is a member of the Sculptors Guild, and her work is in several important public and private collections, including The Brooklyn Museum and the de Menil Collection. Representative galleries include Herstand, Borgenicht and Shapolsky.

Jenny's career has included unique, specialized, industrial projects, which require artistic sensibility and technical proficiency. She is currently developing, prototyping and fabricating custom exhaust headers and systems for the legendary Jaguar XJ-220 to make it compliant with US emission standards, and to withstand rigorous thermo-shock tests. She has also played key roles in the construction of two major exhibits at the American Museum of Natural History. In the early 1990s, she was part of an elite team of paleontologists, scientists and artists who worked on the Fossil Hall, rearticulating fossil skeletons to conform to evolving, new discoveries in those fields. In the late 1990s, she oversaw aspects of the development and creation of the world's largest diorama and interactive display of the Dzanga-Sangha rainforest of the Central African Republic in the Hall of Biodiversity.

A 2000-2001 Faculty Development Grant partially funded her new body of work, which was part of a one-person retrospective at the Hoboken Historical Museum in 2002. This exhibit was also funded by the NJ State Council on the Arts and The NJ Council for the Humanities.

In 2001, her work was featured in the first-ever historical survey, Welded Sculpture of the Twentieth Century, at the Neuberger Museum.



EYEBEAM Producers: Andrea Harner and Jonah Peretti
Executive Producer: The Columbia University Computer Music Center
Website Design: The Mysterious Liz and D.I.R.
Promotional Design: Kate Chapman
ArtBots Illustration: Christian Alamy
ArtBots Theme Song: Christopher Bailey
ArtBots Editorial Dept.: Amy Charlotte Benson


The following institutions and companies are contributing in various ways to the ArtBots project:

Producing Organization:
The Columbia University Computer Music Center (Douglas Repetto )

Hosting Organization:
EYEBEAM is a not-for-profit media arts organization that enables and engages cultural dialogue practiced at the intersection of the arts and sciences. Founded in 1996 by independent filmmaker John S. Johnson, EYEBEAM is dedicated to exposing broad and diverse audiences to new technologies and media arts, while simultaneously establishing and demonstrating new media as a significant genre.

Other Sponsors:

Pratt Institute (Jenny Lee )
NYU Arts Technology Group (Philip Galanter )
R::E::M::O::T::E LOUNGE:

Contact Info

For more information about ArtBots, please contact Douglas Repetto:

For questions/comments on the ArtBots website, please contact: