PROXY av Andy Gracie

Artist talk: 12. September 2011
Atelier Nord project room, 7pm
Open to the audience, free entrance

The artist Andy Gracie visits Norway during the period 6. – 13. September to work on the PROXY project. During his stay he will visit Sørøya in Finnmark where he will collect samples and record film for the installation of PROXY at Piksel 2011 in November. After the expedition Gracie will work at Atelier Nord project room and process the materials collected. His stay will conclude with an artist talk at Atelier Nord September 12. at 7pm.

The project is a collaboration between Andy Gracie</aAtelier Nord andPiksel 2011.  

The installation PROXY features a pair of almost identical robotic devices (named ‘Essence’ and ‘Possibility’) which have been designed to carry out the basic tasks involved in hunting for tardigrades and nematodes in samples of moss, lichen and earth originally taken from their natural habitat. Essence and Possibility owe much of their aesthetic and their contextual purpose to the twin Mars rovers ‘Spirit’ and ‘Opportunity’ which have been roaming and experimenting upon the surface of the red planet since January 2004.

In PROXY we see a reversal in the normal relationships and assumed roles between humans and robots. Where normally we send robots to dangerous, inaccessible or inhospitable places, here it is the artist that has undertaken excursions to mountainous regions for the purpose of collecting samples, which the robots, ‘safe’ and ‘sound’ in the gallery space, will investigate. On each occasion that PROXY is exhibited a new sample collecting expedition is made in a geographical region related to the exhibition venue.

The tasks of Essence and Possibility are to find nematodes and tardigrades respectively in the samples brought to them. These are two of the most important organisms in current space flight and astrobiological research, their reactions to the space environment telling us much about the general reaction of living organisms to such extreme conditions. In PROXY, this biological importance is coupled with the subcontext that all missions to Mars are searching for signs of life, whether extant or extinct.

The robotic devices are mostly static, although they suggest the possibility of various forms of movement through the fact that they share certain aspects of their aesthetic with the Mars and lunar rovers developed by NASA. On board they will carry all the necessary vessels, tubes, valves and motors to allow examinations of the samples available to them. There is a suggestion that while the robots are busy carrying out the tasks of examining their samples, there is also a part of their attention aimed towards a large video projection of the sample collection process, which is projected onto the wall near them. There is also the suggestion that they have an awareness of the actions and efforts of their human accomplice.

As well as being functional devices the robots also have certain expressive capabilities. By employing the arrays of motors, tubes, sounds and lights in various ways they act as the performers of the process and develop a series of motions, tones and actions that begin to describe in a theatrical way the status of their explorations and to express some sense of ‘feeling’ about the process they are engaged in.

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