The New Media Art Resource
Rhizome.LA - The Art of Extreme Robotics
February 24, 2002
Kevin Binkert, Mark Pauline, Eric Paulos, Simon Penny, Christian Ristow
Panel moderators: Maribeth Back and Karen Marcelo

Maribeth Back and Karen Marcelo in conjunction with Rhizome.LA and Silicon Valley's ZeroOne: The Art and Technology Network present The Art of Extreme Robotics.

These joint events, in Hollywood and Silicon Valley, will highlight and examine inter-machine and human-machine interactions through robotic art and performance. Featured artists will show how their work in extreme machine conceptualization, creation, and operation allows us to examine the effects of integration of machines in everyday life.

In Los Angeles, The Art of Extreme Robotics will feature Kevin Binkert, Mark Pauline, Eric Paulos, Simon Penny, and Christian Ristow. In Silicon Valley, the event, the inaugural session for ZeroOne's Discourse & Disco, will feature a panel discussion with Kevin Binkert, Mark Pauline, Eric Paulos, and Kal Spelletich, followed by a lively social gathering complete with a DJ spinning electronic sounds.

The featured artists use and comment on technologies, such as augmented reality, computer vision, artificial life, and virtual reality to experiment with alternative scenarios for extreme human-machine interaction, resulting in presentations and installations that are thought-provoking and shocking.

"California has been the launch pad for the creation and innovation of machine art and robot performance. With talents from Silicon Valley and Hollywood, the presence of de-commissioned military bases, access to discarded equipment and the availability of a technically-skilled volunteer pool, the region has become a fertile breeding ground for a virulent mechanical performance and art scene with a hacker ethic," said Karen Marcelo, one of the moderators for the event.

Why stage The Art of Extreme Robotics?

Machines are, in theory, designed to be efficient, convenient, non-intrusive. They blend into our environments seamlessly as non-threatening and often even aesthetically pleasing tools. Machines are everywhere: a ubiquitous part of the enhanced environment. Some are autonomous, while others are tightly coupled with the human body: prosthetics, communication devices, even jewelry. This gentle encroachment, combined with ongoing research toward machine sentience, forces us to consider machines outside the context of mere tools. They are part of our social, emotional, artistic, and even spiritual context.

About the Moderators

Karen Marcelo codes for a living and hacks for fun. She worked with the CSL group at Xerox PARC in Silicon Valley developing mobile code for simulated ubiquitous computing environments and recombinant computing research. Previous projects she has worked on include a VRML authoring tool, a web-based multi-user 'world' Nerve Garden which received Honorable Mention in the .NET category at Ars Electronica 1998, and a parameterized 3D visualization program (Tetrahedonism) which placed 3rd in the Science and Engineering category of the VRML Excellence Awards in 1997. In her spare time she is Tele-obliteration Engineer for Survival Research Labs, coding Internet telerobotic systems for lethal robots.

Maribeth Back designs, builds, and writes about multisensory interfaces and environments. She is a dynamic systems designer and audio engineer whose work includes experimental electronic books and reading devices, mixed reality systems, sound design for professional theatre, radio, and CD-ROM; system design for virtual and computational environments; and performance installation pieces, both solo and collaborative. In 2001 she won the ID Magazine Silver Award for her Listen Reader, an experimental Magic Book that incorporated rich, controllable sound textures into each page of a real paper-based childrens' book. At Xerox PARC (1996 - 2002) she worked with the RED group exploring emerging genres and document types.

About the Artists

Kevin Binkert is a San Francisco based inventor, machinist, pyro-expressionist. At age three he stuck a key into an electrical outlet. More recent experiments include: breaking the sound barrier with the mind shattering roar of 460 V8 powered Spinner which put the Austrian air force on red alert during a machine performance at the Steirischer Herbst Festival '92; the creation of a 40 foot tall Flame tornado; and numerous mechanical/explosive collaborations with Survival Research Laboratories in the US, France and Austria over the past 12 years. Binkert has operated his Flame Tornado machine in numerous solo shows in San Francisco and across America. He is currently a Spirit of America land speed record team member. During his time with the SOA team, he designed and built many of the systems onboard. On 10/96 the 45,000 horsepower jet car streaked across the Black Rock desert at 677 mph. Kevin is currently the owner and operator of Standard Metal Products (SMP) http://www.smpmachine.com, a San Francisco based machine shop engaged in diverse jobs such as medical and dental instruments, movie props, unsafe toys, railway trains, public water safety devices, aircraft, and the restoration of the 1915 Clock Tower mechanisms in the Oakland Tribune. He recently escaped town for a brief stint as an ape in a burlesque show.

Mark Pauline originated and developed the concept of large scale machine performance beginning in 1978 with the founding of Survival Research Laboratories. He staged over 50 machine performances in the US and Europe as director of SRL. The most recent performance was staged in Berkeley, CA on Dec. 15, 2001. He constructed and designed dozens of large, complex robots and machines for use in these performances, and trained and supervised the efforts of over 200 assistants in the art of machine performance.

Eric Paulos received his PhD in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from the University of California, Berkeley. His research, scientific, artistic, and social interests revolve around robotics and internet based telepresence, particularly the physical, aural, visual, and gestural interactions between humans and machines and various permutations of these interactions. In 1996 he founded the Experimental Interaction Unit (EIU) to directly address concerns and topics in this area. EIU developed the I-Bomb, the first privately owned electromagnetic weapon system and soon after Dispersion, an anonymous biological pathogen vending machine (soon to be consider a crime under California Assembly Bill #74 2002). Paulos has developed several Internet-based tele-operated robots, including Mechanical Gaze (1995) and Personal Roving Presence (PRoP) devices such as Space Browsing helium filled tele-operated blimps and ground based PRoP devices (1995-1998). He collaborated to design and implement the world's first web tele-robotic laboratory called Legal Tender, that allows users to remotely examine a pair of $100 bills and experiment on them to determine their authenticity. He has also collaborated extensively with Mark Pauline of Survival Research Laboratories (SRL), to develop the first globally accessible system that provides anonymous civilians the ability to operate intentionally lethal mechanical devices over the internet.

Eric's work has been exhibited internationally, including the InterCommunication Center (ICC) in Japan, Ars Electronica in Austria, SIGGRAPH, the Dutch Electronic Art Festival (DEAF) in Rotterdam, the Blasthaus Gallery, and a performance for the opening of the Whitney Museum of American Art's 1997 Biennial Exhibition, an opening event at SFMOMA, LA MOCA, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, and an event for the inauguration of the new ZKM Center for Art and Media Technology in Karlsruhe, Germany. Eric is a founding member of the IEEE Technical Committee for Internet Telepresence and respected as an important contributor to the field of computer supported collaborative work (CSCW).

Simon Penny is an Australian artist, theorist and teacher in the field of Interactive Media Art. His art practice consists of interactive and robotic installations, which have been exhibited in the US, Australia and Europe. "Traces" (1999) is a telematic interactive environment using networked CAVEs with machine vision sensing in each CAVE. This project is a development on directions pursued the machine vision driven interactive digital video installation "Fugitive", first shown at ZKM Multimediale5, Oct97 and again at EMAF98 (European Media Art Festival, Osnabruck). Fugitive Two was commisioned by the Australian Center for the Moving Image and will be installed in early 2003. Other recent projects include the emergent complexity sound installation Sympathetic Sentience (I, II and III, with Jameison Schulte) and the autonomous robotic artwork Petit Mal. He is currenly involved in a collaborative machine vision-telerobotic project ('Bedlam') with Bill Vorn of Concordia University, Montreal.

Simon's essays on Culture and Technology and Electronic Media Art have been translated into seven languages. He edited the anthology Critical Issues in Electronic Media (SUNY Press 1995) and is currently working on a manuscript 'Making Culture Machines' for MIT press. Recent essays include: "Representation, Enaction and the Ethics of Simulation" (in 'First Person', Eds: Harrigan and Wardrip-Fruin, MIT Press, 2002); "Agents as artworks and agent design as artistic practice" in Human Cognition and Social Agent Technology, Ed : Kerstin Dautenhahn, John Benjamins Publishing Company, 2000. "Cyborg Art and Systems Aesthetics: the Legacy of Jack Burnham" (Sculpture Magazine, jan99); and "The Virtualisation of Art Practice: Body Knowledge and the Engineering World View" (CAA Art Journal Fall97); "The Darwin Machine: Artificial Life and Interactive Art", (New Formations UK,#29,Technoscience Issue, 1996); He curated Machine Culture (arguably the first international survey exhibition of interactive art) at SIGGRAPH '93 in Anaheim CA. Recent awards include a grant from the Langlois foundation (with Bill Vorn), first prize in the Cyberstar 98 awards (GMD/WDR, Germany) and a residency at the Institut fur Bildmedien, ZKM Karlsruhe, spring97.

He established the Electronic Intermedia Program at the University of Florida 1989-93. He was Associate Professor of Art and Robotics at Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh PA) 1993-2001, a joint position between the School of the Arts and the Robotics Institute. . He was European Professor of Interactive Environments, a joint position at University of Portsmouth UK and Merz Akademie, Stuttgart, responsible for establishing an international interdisciplinary PhD program (2000-2001) Durimng that time he was also a member of the management committee of the EU ESPRIT project CIRCUS. He is now Professor of Arts and Engineering at University of California Irvine (a joint appointment between the Henry Samueli School of Engineering and the Claire Trevor School of Arts). He is establishing a new graduate program in Arts, Computation and Engineering and is Layer Leader for the Arts in CALIT2.

Christian Ristow's high-octane robotic performance art has been featured at venues ranging from The Bergamot Station Gallery Complex in Santa Monica to the Blasthaus Gallery in San Francisco, from The Brewery Art Colony in Downtown LA to the Automatic Art Space in Phoenix, Arizona. Recently profiled in the October issue of Los Angeles Magazine and on the Los Angeles evening news, his work has also been seen in books such as Robo Sapiens and Body Probe, magazines such as Wired, The LA Weekly, National Geographic, Spin, Raygun, and Gadfly, as well as on The Discovery Channel's Robots Rising and on TechTV. His commercial robotic work has been featured in Stephen Spielberg's A.I. and Bicentennial Man, among other films and commercials. He holds a B.A. in Architecture from Columbia University and worked for several years with the San Francisco based robotic performance group Survival Research Laboratories.

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