B.O.B. – and others yet to arrive

Whenever there is a post regarding the impact of computing upon artwork it is only natural for people to jump into attack mode and make statements along the lines of ‘it will never happen’ or ‘a robot cannot replicate fine motor skills of human touch’ or ‘a robot cannot interpretate the emotional perception that guides an artists hand.’

There is some truth in all such responses – for the moment. Let’s remember people made similar responses to the introduction of computers, the internet, digital imaging and hole in the wall banking!

Stalling responses to change are natural. Noone likes change. Some are better at adapting sooner, than others but noone actually puts up their hand and says lets turn my world upside down. Change is however inevitable, even to cave dwellers. Change takes place continuously. The majority of change is slow and progressive, barely noticeable. Some change is sudden and paradigm in nature. We all learn to adapt.

Computing, artificial intelligence and robotics are already being applied to arts. Sculptors are utilising three dimensional printing and robotic construction, photographers have embraced digital imaging and people are creating digital artworks on their screens while riding the tram to work. Whether we line these creations up alongside traditionally created art or whether we create completely new categories of art is yet to be seen.

Which brings us to B.O.B or Bag of Beliefs, an artifically intelligent construction created by American artist Ian Cheng. An advanced form of earlier games whereby children would feed and nurture an pet rock or some form of digital creature, BOB enables viewers to interact via an app on their phone, while standing in front of the installation. This in turn enables interaction, possibly even collaboration, between viewers. Viewers can make offerings to BOB to induce a set of behaviours, even look to drive BOB to the edge of chaos in an effort to break BOB. (An unsurprisingly common human desire, no doubt inherited from our love of watching gladiators be torn to shreds in the Colisseum.

BOB is only the beginning, in fact he isn’t even the beginning, that occured some time ago. BOB represents the progression of human endeavour to recreate ourselves in something else. Maybe due to our slightly arrogant, and possibly misguided belief that if we create it, then we can control it. Which we can – for the moment.

Read more on BOB at https://gladstonegallery.com

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