News

Walls come tumbling down


3 May 2013

Dr Rob Saunders: "The robots are exploring the world, and we are things of interest to the robots."
Dr Rob Saunders: "The robots are exploring the world, and we are things of interest to the robots."

In a room at Woolloomooloo's ARTSPACE, the jarring banging noises coming from behind the gallery walls sound like a team of builders on the other side in the knockdown phase of a renovation.

But as you peer through the holes gradually appearing in the wall you realise the noise is not the work of humans, but robots, punching their way through the walls, making holes so that their 'eyes' (cameras framed by LED lights) are visible to viewers on the other side.

"The robots are exploring the world, and we are things of interest to the robots," says Dr Rob Saunders, a lecturer in Design Computing in the Faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning at the University of Sydney.

Working with artist Petra Gemeinboeck, Rob designed and built these noisy and nosey robots for their installation artwork Accomplice, equipping each one with a motorised punch, a camera, and a microphone. The robots can communicate with each other as they explore, learn, play and conspire by knocking against the wall, producing larger and larger holes and increasingly complex patterns.

When an audience is present the robots watch and follow their onlookers through the spaces they have made in order to enhance their knowledge and alleviate their own boredom.

Artists Dr Rob Saunders and Petra Gemeinboeck.
Artists Dr Rob Saunders and Petra Gemeinboeck.

"We are in a world that is increasingly populated by technology and it is increasingly complex. We need machines to be intelligent and complex but we have to think about the consequences of that," says Rob, explaining one of the ideas behind the work.

According to Petra, their work is in many ways "an allegory of our built environment, which, as it becomes more complex, is also something that we have less control over."

Rob Saunders is a Senior Lecturer in Design Computing at the Faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning at the University of Sydney. Rob researches creative agency, computational curiosity, and robotic art. He collaborates with artists and designers to apply his research in design customisation systems, interactive installations and robotic artworks.

Petra Gemeinboeck is a Senior Lecturer in Interactive Media Arts at the College of Fine Arts, UNSW. Her practice in machine performance, interactive installation, and virtual environments explores the ambiguities and vulnerabilities in our relationships with machines, making tangible the desires and politics involved.


Event details

What:Accomplice, Petra Gemeinboeck and Rob Saunders

When: Wednesday 2 May to Sunday 16 June

Where:ARTSPACE, 43 - 51 Cowper Wharf Road, Woolloomooloo

Cost: Free

The robots can communicate with each other as they explore, learn, play and conspire by knocking against the wall, producing larger and larger holes and increasingly complex patterns.
The robots can communicate with each other as they explore, learn, play and conspire by knocking against the wall, producing larger and larger holes and increasingly complex patterns.


Follow University of Sydney Media on Twitter

Media enquiries: Kath Kenny, 0478 303 173, 02 9351 1584, kath.kenny@sydney.edu.au

Katie Szittner, 02 9351 2261, 0478 316 809, katie.szittner@sydney.edu.au