Paris has been welcoming a wave of immersive audiovisual exhibitions lately, from La Grande Villette’s Imagine Van Gogh, with audiovisual projections of rushing water and poppies wobbling in the wind, to the recently opened Atelier des Lumières, where you can actually walk around inside blown-up versions of famous paintings.
It seems that cutting-edge technological equipment with immersive projections is the new trend in the art world, and rightly so. It’s the best way to discover art in this day and age, utterly submerging yourself in the splendour of the creation without any distractions. But now, the Grand Palais is taking this approach a step further with a philosophical message about progress.
The new Artists & Robots exhibition (April 5 – July 9, 2018) invites the most curious and daring spectators to experience works created by artists with the aid of intelligent robots. It’s a truly revolutionary exhibition, one that suggests an interesting new direction for the future of art. Not only does it offer an overdue departure from traditional mediums of presenting and interacting with artistic creations, but it also validates artificial intelligence and robotics as a form of art.
There are around 30 works on show and each one promises a mind-blowing glimpse into the limitless potential of an interactive virtual world. If you’re intrigued by rumours of augmented reality, where space and time are completely upturned, then it’s a must-visit. Peter Kogler’s ‘Untitled’ (2018) is particularly impressive, where vortex patterns from the digital world engulf the whole room.
‘In an increasingly mechanised society, artists are taking a growing interest in robots, as artificial intelligence is now transforming human existence, affecting the very nature of the artwork itself: its production, exhibition, distribution, conservation and reception’, the curators explain.
‘They have substantial experience with such matters: as far back as the prehistoric caves, artists have long known how to work with their technical environment. Their work takes on more astonishing dimensions with the use of increasingly powerful software that offers even greater autonomy to artworks, an infinite capacity to work with shapes and interactivity that can constantly modify the artistic gesture’.
This might sound a little complicated, but the motivation behind it is fairly simple. The works are responding to the most fundamental questions, which have haunted the world of art history since the beginning. What is an artist? What is an artwork? The only difference is that this time, the curators are also curious to find out what a robot can achieve that an artist cannot.
The exhibition is divided into three sections and offers a range of mediums to spark your imagination. The first section, ‘the creative machine’, considers the fairly troubling albeit fascinating possibility that robots might have their own ‘psychology’ and even, ‘personality’. Orlan and Orlanoïde’s ‘Electronic and verbal strip-tease’ (2017) is particularly thought-provoking in this respect.
Some of the names on the bill are old favourites, like Jean Tinguely and Nam June Paik, but you’ll be spoiled for choice with the works of Takahiro Yamaguchi, J. Lee Thompson and Arcangelo Sassolino as well.
Exciting as they are, these works contain a warning, particularly in the section, ‘the robot frees itself’. The overarching message is that while artificial intelligence is beneficial in many ways, and also very exciting, we must progress with care. If we’re not careful, then progress can upturn the civilisation we have fought so hard to construct.
Artists & Robots (April 5 – July 9, 2018)
Grand Palais, National Galleries