Today sees the opening of Scopitone, a festival in Nantes, France dedicated to electronic culture and digital arts. Despite the impressive array of musical acts and artworks on display, one of the most exciting performances on the program comes not from a pop star or buzz-worthy DJ but from a fleet of laser-equipped robots. UMwelt-VIRUtopia : A Swarm Robotic by Belgian artist Frederik De Wilde features a tribe of mini robots that “dance” in mid-air.
The robots emerge in the middle of a smoke-filled arena, evoking a lucid dream from a not too distant future. They move in a “swarm” (think of a swarm of bees), shooting out their lasers to create patterns, forming a choreographed dance of light, sound and space that unfolds before the audience. De Wilde says that the performance plays on the psychology of borders. The swarm of robots is not only independent, it also tries to push its own boundaries.
Influenced by Marshall McLuhan‘s theories regarding media, De Wilde conceives his works as “cool” media—unclear and incomplete messages that require the audience’s involvement in order to be deciphered. He was awarded the prestigious Ars Electronica [Next Idea] prize in 2010 for the project Hostage, the darkest nano-artwork in the world. De Wilde’s work always asks philosophical, open-ended questions: How can we ‘break’ the patterns of an audience? Are borders made to be crossed?
You can check out the full Scopitone program here: www.Scopitone.org.