Friday, February 10, 2012

Face-stealing robots at Kinetica Art Fair

Kat Austen, CultureLab editor
Getting tunnel vision with Tunnel View at the Kinetica Art Fair (Image: Hans Kotter)

Face-stealing robots, strobe lighting and steampunk all lie in wait at this year’s Kinetica Art Fair. Opening today in London, the fair transforms its basement location into a playground for grown-ups who harbour a fascination for technology.
The fair greets you with a large digital sculpture - Titia Ex’s interactive Flower from the Universe, a giant neuron at the heart of LED-lit arms that change hue to mirror colours detected in their vicinity. My green skirt caused a cascade of the same colour to ripple through the tentacles and prompted the neuron to flash red.
At the other end of the spectrum, the fair plays host to a whole menagerie of cute kinetic sculptures made of reclaimed materials. Norwegian artist Christian Blom’s al Khowarzimi’s mechanical orchestra is a feat of electrical engineering that, among other tricks, passes electrical impulses through charged copper coils to propel metal rods into bells.
The fair has a history of showcasing a wide variety of experimental works, and this year is no exception. An interesting inclusion is the flashing light in a giant silver box created by neurologist Dirk Proeckl and clinical psychologist Engelbert Winkler. The TravellerUnlimited project, based on their Lucia N°03, was developed for therapeutic purposes, but Winkler says that it also enables participants to create their own art as they experience visions of colours and shapes.
I collared a couple of the lucky few who had tried the experience, and was told that the flashing could at times be disturbing. “I thought: if it goes on for too long, it might make me feel disorientated,” one guinea-pig told me. Though he had not seen changing colours, he had experienced “patterns of different shadings of light”. His fellow participant described it as “like looking at your retina and seeing them on fire”.
Paying tribute to the man who first asked if computers can think, a booth at the fair was devoted to a preview of Intuition and Ingenuity - The Legacy of Alan Turing. Curated by artist Anna Dumitriu, the full exhibition will tour the UK this year in celebration of the centenary of the birth of Alan Turing, the man who created the eponymous test for machine intelligence. Amusingly, the exhibition includes an automated confessional alongside other computer- and algorithmically-generated artworks.


All this and more whirly-clicky excitement is on at the Kinetica Art Fair at Ambika P3 in London until 12 February.

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