kirsty boyle :: robotics artist

tree ceremony

tree ceremony 2010 robot performance installation.  Project was commissioned by Museum Tinguely and Kunsthaus Graz for Robot Dreams exhibition.


2012 National New Media Art Award – 2012 finalist, awarded Highly Commended
Gallery of Modern Art/Queensland Art Gallery , Brisbane, Australia
With Karen Casey, Robin Fox, Petra Gemeinboeck and Rob Saunders, an Haig, Leah Heiss, Ross Manning and George Poonkhin Khut.

2011 Projektionsfiguren in der Kunst – Figures of Projection in Contemporary Art, Museum Villa Rot, Burgrieden, Germany
With Dennis Oppenheim, Tony Oursler, Cindy Sherman, Eva Aeppli, Lynn Hershman Leeson, Yves Netzhammer and others.

2010 – 2011 Robot Dreams, Museum Tinguely, Basel, Switzerland in parallel with Art Basel;  Kunsthaus Graz, Austria in conjunction with the 2010 Steirischer Herbst festival
With Nam June Paik, John Bock, Jon Kessler, Christa Sommerer and Laurent Mignonneau, Walter Pichler, Ed Kienholz, Richard Kriesche, Francois Roche, Virgil Widrich, Stelarc, Tom Sachs and others.

Robot Dreams :: Roboterträume :: Rêves de robot
June 9 to September 12 2010 Museum Tinguely, Basel, Switzerland
October 9 2010 to February 20 2011 Kunsthaus Graz, Austria

tree ceremony involves a robot interacting with a tree, creating an environment exploring how technology might bring us closer to nature.  The robot incorporates traditional automata craft practice with innovative Artificial Intelligence (AI) techniques producing a mechanically choreographed character for real world interaction with visitors to the installation.

The Japanese tradition of automata is known as Karakuri.  The ‘Chahakobi Ningyo‘, or tea-serving doll is the most famous, and was the first ‘home entertainment’ robot used in Japan used during tea ceremonies.  Karakuri symbolise and embody what is believed to be divine forces and spirit.

In Shinto natural phenomena and objects are worshipped as ‘kami‘ (spirits) – which encompasses qualities such as growth and fertility; phenomena such as wind and thunder; objects such as the sun, rivers, trees and rocks and ancestral spirits.  It includes all things organic and inorganic.  Shinto ceremonies commemorate life, and daily life is considered ‘service to the kami‘.  Karakuri featured in festivals and ceremonies are considered to be ‘kami’, and are a very important part of Shinto culture.

The Karakuri inspired tree ceremony robot is human mediated and also “nature mediated”, dancing and in essence is the tree’s protector.  By incorporating AI and enabling natural gestures and subtle movements, the robot gains a sense of spirit, representing an awareness of the relationship between the material, the ecological and the spiritual.

The project was developed via the Synapse Art/Science initiative, presented by The Australian Network for Art and Technology (ANAT) and the Artificial Intelligence Lab, University of Zurich in association with the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body.

Spatial requirements :: ~5m x 5m

Installation of multiple parts :: hand carved robot (height 80cm – electronics, linden wood, hinoki/Japanese pine wood, vintage textiles, buffalo hair); bonsai tree (height ~80cm); tatami mat; fake wall containing netbook, audio speakers and mounted UV light.

Boyle’s robot figure, which has its origin in the handcraft of Karakuri – the Japanese tradition of automaton making – is a mistress of ceremonies. She mediates between man and nature, propagating the overcoming of the boundaries between artificiality and naturalness, respectively the technological and the organic that have always been inscribed in western culture.

Robot Dreams catalogue essay about tree ceremony by curator Katrin Bucher Trantow-

Read more about my artist residency at the AI Lab, University of Zurich.

This project received a 2009 Prix Ars Electronica nomination (“Hybrid Art” category)