Petra Gemeinboeck and Rob Saunders
In the large-scale robotic art installation Accomplice, the wall, representing our ‘third skin’, becomes the social territory for self-motivated, chatty and curious machines. Robotics is deployed as a medium of intervention to shift the focus from representation to performativity. The robots become part of an affective assemblage entangling human agents and nonhuman agents.
Like in our previous work Zwischenräume, the robots are hidden in Accomplice, at least at first, behind—what audiences believe to be—an existing wall. The work nestles itself into our human environment and turns it into the learning playground for a colony of curious, social machines. Each robot is equipped with a motorised punch and a camera eye to transform its environment and express its desires. Collectively, they explore, learn, play and conspire by knocking against the wall, producing holes and patterns that mark their social evolution.
The audience is an integral part of this complicit machinic ecology. The curious, social machines communicate with each other to bond and connect using different rhythmic knocking signals that they repeat and vary. As visitors move along the wall, a flutter of knocking signals accompanies them. From the robots’ point of view, the audience temporarily co-inhabits their environment, which provokes their curiosity. As far as the robotic agents are concerned, the audience performs for them.