kirsty boyle :: robotics artist

fuse exhibition catalogue essay

By Curator Sean O’Connell

Kirsty Boyle shows us the world as the machine sees it, and through those eyes, an image of ourselves reflected in the light of that technology. Researching robotic image processing and non-verbal interactive systems during her residency at the Artificial Intelligence Lab, Switzerland, she is developing several bodies of work that chart our tenuous relationship with robotics. She draws strongly upon a history of traditional mechanical doll-making in Japan, which she has spent time studying under the only remaining Karakuri master. These centuries-old strands of thought on artificial life allow her to explore modern concerns about robotics within a strong historical context.

At a fundamental level, her work questions the role of robotics, particularly the replication of our own manners and modes of communication. Her concerns navigate the leading edge of interactive communications and seek to explore the intrinsic nature of robotics, whole in itself and separate from ourselves. Perhaps guaranteeing our own individuality as distinctly separate from machines, these inquiries also show us an external viewpoint of ourselves. Her work hints at an expansion of our assumed perception of robotics, allowing for an expression of its nature within its own limitations and possibilities.

The artist’s practice includes mechanical performance-based work, AI software systems, static sculpture and photography. Her process is research based in a traditional sense, involving deep knowledge of her subject from social and scientific aspects. Much of her work is collaborative with experts in fields of intense specialisation.

Boyle’s photographic work in this exhibition examines her own image through the eyes of the machine, using robotic vision systems currently under development in the AI Lab where she is undertaking her residency. The images are reconstructed from pure data captured with robotic optics and sensors, in much the same way that we reconstruct a picture in our mind’s eye through electrical impulses from our retina. Mediated through the digital divide, through processing systems and optics designed within a preconceived framework of human vision, Kirsty creates a robotically mediated self-portrait of humanity as we move deeper into our tangled relationship with technology.