Accomplice (AU)



Robotic installation: electronics, custom artificial intelligence software, aluminum, steel, wood, plasterboard

Petra Gemeinboeck and Rob Saunders (AT/UK)


Accomplice nestles itself into our human environment by embedding autonomous robots into the architectural fabric of the gallery. The wall is turned into a playground for curious, social machines. Each robot is equipped with a punch and a camera eye, which they use to interact with their surroundings. Moving along the wall they share, they communicate with each other, using their punch to chit-chat with rhythmic knocking signals. Collectively, they explore, learn, play, and conspire by knocking against the wall, producing holes and patterns that mark their relentless, inquisitive nature. Robotics is deployed as a medium of intervention, rather than a spectacle. The work enacts a slice of our intimate co-evolution with machines, nestled into and transforming our architectural skin.

Audiences, at first, encounter this hidden machinery through its restless knockings, and soon can catch a glimpse, as the robots pierce through the wall. They become an accomplice in the work’s ongoing material interventions once the robots have constructed larger holes and detect the people in the gallery space. In the robots’ world, audiences are a dynamic part of their expanded environment that triggers their curiosity. Thus, it is not only the robots that perform for the audience, but also the audience that provokes and entertains the machines. It’s the moment, when one of the machines looks back at a visitor, before it moves on again to chisel along the fringes of another hole or knock out a short tune. After all, the gallery wall is their habitat. It’s a bit like going to the zoo.

This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body. Presented by MAAP-Media Art Asia Pacific with the support from The Emerging and Experimental Arts of the Australia Council for the Arts

Photo Credits/Captions

Caption for Accomplice ­_silversalt
Accomplice, installation view, Artspace, Sydney. Photo by silversalt photography

All other captions should be:
Accomplice, installation detail, Artspace, Sydney


Artist Bio:

Petra Gemeinboeck
Petra Gemeinboeck is Director of Postgraduate Research and Deputy Director of the NIEA Creative Robotics Lab at the College of Fine Arts, UNSW. Her artistic practice in creative robotics and interactive installation explores the ambiguities and vulnerabilities in our relationships with machines, making tangible the desires and politics involved. Gemeinboeck’s works have been exhibited internationally, including at the Ars Electronica Festival; Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane; Thessaloniki Biennale; MCA Chicago; ICC Tokyo, and the Centre des Arts Enghien at Paris.

Rob Saunders
Rob Saunders is Head of the Design Lab at the Faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning, University of Sydney. Saunders’s research explores the role of curiosity in individual, social and cultural creative systems. Using techniques from artificial intelligence, machine learning and robotics, he develops computational models of curiosity, artificial creative systems, and creative robotics. Saunders applies his research in design customization systems, interactive installations, and robotic artworks.