Robot Art Reviewer Debuts in Museum Exhibition

Graduate student Immony Men with Dr. David Harris Smith (McMaster University) and kulturBOT the robot art 'reviewer'

Graduate student Immony Men with Dr. David Harris Smith (McMaster University) and kulturBOT the robot art ‘reviewer’. photo: Sarah Janes


kultureBOT reviews the exhibition, projecting photos of the gallery overlayed with text. photo: Sarah Janes

my kulturBOT 1.0 is a robotic art show reviewer that attends exhibitions and projects text-captioned photos of the galleries, visitors and art. The brainchild and collaborative research project of McMaster’s Dr. David Harris Smith, Dr. Frauke Zeller from University College, London, UK and graduate student Immony Men, the robot debuts in the newest exhibition at the McMaster Museum of Art, About the Mind.

“We wanted to use the robot in order to stress the inherent vagueness of what [the philosopher] Bourdieu described as the ‘demarcation line between the world of technical objects and the world of aesthetic objects,’” said the artists. “…also to question, whether my kulturBOT 1.0 is itself an object of art, or rather a simple domestic floor sweeping robot.”

my kulturBOT 1.0 communicates with humans through language, movement and images.  However it does not look humanoid. Its casing is that of an inexpensive floor sweeper, albeit one that has gone far beyond the original intention of its maker.

The researchers observed that when machines do not perform in a predictable way, they give the impression that they have developed their own will and, by extension, intelligence. In this way, my kultureBOT’s randomness serves to make it seem more human. Sweeping its way through the gallery, the robot captures images indiscriminately and combines them with poetic sentences—also randomly generated from F. T. Marinetti’s (1909) Futurist Manifesto. An example:

But we are for wild beasts! Let us throw us in my way. What can only cure forces of the railway station and admirations of the words!

Smith and Zeller’s research looks at the history, philosophies and even phobias relating to robots. Says Museum Director, Carol Podedworny, “Within the context of the exhibition About the Mind, my kultureBOT 1.0 provides an invaluable entry point into discussions about both artificial intelligence and the works of art on view. I’m looking forward to great ‘reviews.’”

kulturbot upgrades are ongoing and Dr. Smith anticipates  the robot will soon be sharing its composite exhibition ‘reviews’ on social media— on Facebook and on Twitter

About the Mind Exhibition

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