I’ve always wondered what it is about me that means that I can draw. I’m not saying I’m the best artist in the world, far from it, but I was always singled out at school as ‘one of the good drawers’ rather than ‘maths genius’ or ‘should audition for X-Factor’ (not that we had X-Factor in the 1970s).
Is it something present in my left hand? Is it something in my brain? Or in my eye? What gives me that ability? About a year ago I pondered whether if I started painting with my feet I would be able to develop a style to match that with which I have using my left hand. This would perhaps suggest that talent is in the brain or the eye, not in the instrument (the hand or foot).
Today, I read about an artist who has managed to draw in three separate cities with the help of robot technology. This of course doesn’t actually add anything to the discussion of hand vs head vs eye as the robot is a replica to the hand rather than an alternative, but it is interesting nonetheless.
Yesterday, after a long period of research, Austrian artist, Alex Kiessling, made three drawings all at once. One with his own hand, and two with robot hands. Kiessling drew in Vienna, the robots in Berlin and London. He used an infra-red sensor to trace the movements of his pen and sent the signal via satellite to the two robots situated in Trafalgar Square and Breitscheidplatz. The project is called ‘Long Distance’ and the three works will be united together to create one big piece.
The question this experiment poses instead is: is the art work created by the robot as valuable as the art work created by the artist? If it is an exact replica, then surely it is, even though the artist is sitting in a different city and hasn’t touched the art work itself. Could we record art being created to be recreated at a different time and place? Could we one day teach a robot to paint or draw ‘in the style of’ to be used after the artist has long disappeared to the next world? Could artists use this technique to produce multiple copies of an art work for commissions?
I don’t think it is time for me to invest in a team of robots just yet. I want some new boots first.
Zolhfagharifard, E. ‘One artist, two robots, and three cities’, 27 Sept 2013, Daily Mail, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2433471/Artist-Alex-Kiesslings-Long-Distance-uses-robots-copy-painting.html [last accessed 27 September 2013]
I think there’s an interesting debate here. Arguable, the remote versions of the artwork ‘created’ by the robot arms are not much different from photocopies of the original – or prints, if you prefer the more artistic term. Are they therefore as valuable as the original? No, of course not.
But then compare with our views of things like Warhol’s multiple Monroes, cans of soup, etc – where he deskilled the screen printing to others. Most would still treat these items as created by Warhol, even if there’s no proof he ever touched them.
The robot arm approach is just a modern take on the pantograph (http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00B98N3H4), which I’m assuming everyone has played with at some stage in their childhood.