Friday, April 22, 2011

Two Robotic Exhibits by Bill Vorn Featured at Wood St Galleries


Veronica Corpuz
The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust
(412) 471-6082

Bill Vorn: Hysterical Machines

April 29 – June 19, 2011

Wood Street Galleries, 601 Wood Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15222

Downtown Pittsburgh Cultural District

Opening reception during Gallery Crawl 5:30-9 p.m.

PITTSBURGH, PA: Bill Vorn will exhibit his two robotic works “Red Light” and “Hysterical Machines” at Wood Street Galleries, 601 Wood Street, in Pittsburgh’s Cultural District beginning Friday, April 29, 2011 during The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust’s Gallery Crawl on Friday, April 29, from 5:30-9 p.m. The exhibition will close on Sunday, June 19, 2011.

“The questions posed by Vorn’s work are not about whether the robots have true emotion or intelligence, but rather about what they evoke in us, their users,” notes curator Murray Horne. “In a dramatic fashion, Vorn’s robots respond to our interactivity as ‘state of mind.’ In questioning our relations, connections or fantasies concerning robots, we may end up imagining what the robot is feeling about us.”


Born and living in Montreal, Bill Vorn is active in the field of Robotic Art since 1992. His installation and performance projects involve robotics and motion control, sound, lighting, video and cybernetic processes. He pursues research and creation on Artificial Life and Agent Technologies through artistic work based on the Aesthetics of Artificial Behaviors.

He holds a Ph.D. degree in Communication Studies from UQAM (Montreal) for his thesis on Artificial Life as a Media. He teaches Electronic Arts in the Department of Studio Arts at Concordia University (Intermedia/Cyberarts program) where he holds the rank of Full Professor. He is responsible of the alab, a Robotic Art research-creation lab part of the Hexagram Institute.

His work has been presented in multiple international events, including Ars Electronica, ISEA, DEAF, Sonar, Art Futura, EMAF and Artec. He has been awarded the Life 2.0 award (1999, Madrid), the Leprecon Award for Interactivity (1998, New York), the Prix Ars Electronica Distinction award (1996, Linz) and the International Digital Media Award (1996, Toronto). He has worked in collaboration with many canadian artists (including Edouard Lock, Robert Lepage, Gilles Maheu, LP Demers and Istvan Kantor). He was cofounder of the electronic pop music band Rational Youth with Tracy Howe in 1981.

Hysterical Machines

Produced with the help of Hexagram, the Institute for Research/Creation in Media Art and Technology

This project is part of a larger research program on the Aesthetics of Artificial Behaviors and is very much inspired of a previous work based on the Misery of the Machines (Bill Vorn, LP Demers, La Cour des Miracles, 1997). It is conceived on the principle of deconstruction, suggesting dysfunctional, absurd and deviant behaviors through a functional machine. It operates on a dual-level process expressing the paradoxal nature of Artificial Life.

The first prototype of the Hysterical Machine (renamed Prehysterical Machine) has been presented at the Sentient Circuitry show at the Walter Philips Gallery (Banff) in 2002, the Fundacion Telefonica kiosk at Arco (Madrid, Spain) in 2003, and at the FILE 2004 festival (Sao Paulo, Brazil). Since then we have built ten more machines inspired by the prehysterical prototype that are part of a larger scale environment (Hysterical Machines).

Each Hysterical Machine has a spherical body and eight arms made of aluminum tubing. It has a sensing system, a motor system and a control system that functions as an autonomous nervous system (entirely reactive). Some machines are suspended from the ceiling and their arms are actuated by pneumatic valves and cylinders. Pyroelectric sensors allow the robots to detect the presence of viewers in the nearby environment. They react to the viewers according to the amount of stimuli they receive. The perceived emergent behaviors of these machines engender a multiplicity of interpretations based on single dynamic pattern of events.

The aim of this project is to induce empathy of the viewer towards characters which are nothing more than articulated metal structures. The strength of the simulacra is emphasized by perverting the perception of the creatures, which are neither animals nor humans, carried through the inevitable instinct of anthropomorphism and projection of our internal sensations, a reflex triggered by any phenomenon that challenges our senses.

Red Light (2005)

Produced with the help of Le Conseil des arts et des lettres du Qu├ębec

Hexagram, the Institute for Research/Creation in Media Art and Technology

RED LIGHT is an interactive robotic environment which aims to question, reformulate and subvert the notions of behavior, projection and empathy that usually characterize the relationship between human beings and machines. Red Light is a following in my artistic practice about creating artificial worlds. This project evokes a certain "deviance of the machines" as it would exist in the hottest areas of a fictive world populated exclusively by these cybernetic creatures. This installation project also explores techniques and technologies related to parallel robotics and to pneumatics with the construction of home-made pneumatic muscles.

Eight machines react to the presence of viewers by generating sound and light and by moving their body in a very organic but unusual way. Each robot is an assembly of four segments joined by twelve McKibben actuators (air muscles). Six machines are hanging from the ceiling and two machines are convulsing on the floor.

The artificial characters in the Red Light environment are complex machines that could generate a wide number of possible behaviors. These behaviors are also adaptive in response to what the machines perceive and the way viewers decide to interact with them: by touching the robots, by moving around them, by simply standing in front of these untamed tentacles. The title of this installation project evokes a particular situation/context where the actors are expressing themselves through unpredictable behaviors that may seem completely wild or crazy, where the interpretation of these behaviors may even lead to believe in their own true existence. Red Light is a place where the human qualities of the machine and the machinic nature of man are intermixed and become blurred.


Hysterical Machines

April 29 – June 19, 2011

Opening reception during Gallery Crawl 5:30-9 p.m.

Wood Street Galleries is located at 601 Wood Street above the T-Station in the Downtown Pittsburgh Cultural District.


Wednesday & Thursday, 11 a.m. - 6 p.m.
Friday & Saturday, 11 a.m. - 8 p.m.
Sunday 11 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Free and open to the public

For more information, call 412-471-5605 or visit
Wood Street Galleries is a project of The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust

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