Recently awarded the prestigious VIDA Art and Artificial Life International Awards grant, new media art assistant professor Paula Gaetano-Adi in the College of Visual Arts and Design is working on a robotic art installation that will pay homage to her Latin American roots.
Gaetano-Adi is the newest member of UNT's Initiative for Advanced Research in Technology and the Arts (iARTA) -- an evolving research cluster bringing together faculty from UNT's colleges of music, art and design, arts and sciences and engineering and one of UNT's 15 research clusters. iARTA celebrates a growing international reach with the addition of Gaetano-Adi, who brings expertise in art-robots, performance and the aesthetic applications for artificial life systems to UNT's new media discipline.
Gaetano-Adi also coined the term "artificial corporality" as a complement to the notion of "artificial intelligence" in the context of creative or artistic robotics. The project she will pursue with the VIDA grant award is a natural continuation of her research that has been included in international exhibitions, most notably at the following museums:
- The National Art Museum of China (Beijing)
- MejanLabs Gallery (Stockholm)
- ARCO Fair (Madrid)
- FILE Festival (Sao Paulo)
- Centro Andaluz of Contemporary Art (Sevilla)
- National Museum of Poznan (Ponznan)
- BrandenburgerTor Foundation (Berlin)
- Museum of Modern Art (Buenos Aires)
- Proteus Gowanus Gallery (New York)
Think it's hard to envision large robotic sculptures coexisting with ancestral techniques? It wasn't too long ago that even our own grandparents couldn't imagine living side-by-side with robots, Gaetano-Adi points out, and now they are commonplace.
"Robots are as much at home in art, cinema, popular culture and literature as they are in science and technology. They are of increasing importance in manufacturing and entertainment. Even more profoundly, robots raise intriguing cultural questions about our 'humanness' that seem to engage philosophers, artists, scientists and technologists," Gaetano-Adi says.
VIDA is an international competition with two categories: one for awards for completed artworks created by artists worldwide, the other for artists from Iberoamerica (Spain, Portugal and Latin America), which awards grants for the creation of new works. During the course of the next year, Gaetano-Adi will collaborate with longtime mentor and architect Gustavo Crembil on her winning proposal, titled "TZ'IJK," the Mayan word for mud. TZ'IJK is inspired by the creationist mythologies of the Popol Vuh.
The concept for TZ'IJK is based upon a Mayan creation myth in which the gods make several false starts in setting humanity upon the Earth, creating the first man out of mud but soon finding him to be "a useless, clumsy creation that moved around without understanding, insight or perceptiveness," according to Gaetano-Adi's abstract.
Using a pre-colonial South American construction technique called "Quincha" (a word derived from the Quechua people of the central Andes), the robotic sculptures will have a wood and a cane framework covered in mud.
"They will be a community of seven blind, deaf and speechless autonomous robotic agents that roll around in random and uncoordinated ways," Gaetano-Adi says. "The spheres will have an interior motor equipped with a proprioceptive sensory system that will allow them to detect when they encounter an object and then change direction. The movement will be extremely slow, almost imperceptible."
Robotic art in the 20th century arose from questioning the static nature of sculpture, says Gaetano-Adi, who took first prize in the 2006 VIDA 9.0 completed projects competition. She was awarded 10,000 Euros at VIDA 9.0 for her Alexitimia project, a biomorphic robotic art piece that reacted to human interaction by sweating when touched.
VIDA is an international awards organization that supports artificial life projects based on systems that emulate, imitate or speculate on the notion of life through current research and technology. These systems may involve attributes of agency and autonomy that display specific behavior; are dynamic, react to their surroundings and evolve; and that question the frontiers between what is alive and what is not, between synthetic and organic life. Jurors for VIDA awards include top artificial life artists, thinkers, writers and researchers worldwide.
Margarita Venegas with UNT News Service can be reached at Margarita.Venegas@unt.edu.