Running through July 9th at TenderPixel in London, Patrick Tresset’s expo features a collection of three robotic installations, which is more impressive than their number might suggest. Each bot showcases Tresset’s concept of “clumsy robotics” by sketching the portraits of whoever crosses their threshold, i.e. those passers-by with a solid enough self-image not to be offended by the result. Can we grasp the idea of a robot offending? It’s high time we tried, if Tresset’s bots are anything to go by…!
Paul, recorded here in mid-flow, is one of Tresset’s creations and consists of a robotic arm endowed with low-cost servomotors, to better mimic the trial-and-error drafts all human artists maniacally go through before completing a work. These nuts-and-bolts artists won’t actually perfect their particular brand of painting through practice, but the bots haven’t been put on this Earth for that purpose. Their creator explains: “I believe that a robot that slightly fails is more interesting, more touching – it encourages empathy in the viewer.” But if robots can be wired to fail, and robots can be wired to draw, what can’t they do if we wire them right? And what could they do if we wire them wrong?