Scripted Movement #1

Date: 2014.Size: 910mm x 650mm.

Tools: Rhino, Grasshopper, HAL, ABB IRB-6640 Robot, Pentel Aquash Water Brush, Ink

We are moving towards an a future where the terms “nature” and “technology” will not be seen as opposites. Natural systems are increasingly being augmented, modified, and hybridized by the hardware and software that enables contemporary life. Likewise, the systems we make are increasingly life-like. Our technologies are not quite alive, not sentient, but still resonate with a vital energy.

In this context, I am interested exploring work that is both natural and technological. I try to decode the underlying structures of natural systems and then use these in the production work that is complex without being complicated. Using a variety of digital technologies, from scripting languages to digital fabrication, the work is both grown and made. That is, I focus on creating the literal code, the rules and parameters of a system, and then allow the system to take on a life of its own as it’s deployed.

In the Scripted Movement Series of drawings/paintings, I have begun to experiment with the use of industrial robotics. Typically used in the production of cars or other mass-produced items of contemporary culture, these robots are essentially larger, stronger, and more precise version of the human arm. Made up of a series of joints that mimic yet extend the movements of shoulder, elbow, and wrist, the robot has a wide range of highly control motion. The real value of these robots is that, like the human arm, their usefulness is completely determined by the tool that is placed in its hand. Although with industry these tools include welding torches, vacuum grippers, and saws, really any tool can be used.

Presented with an opportunity to use one of these robots, I decided that trying to teach myself and the robot to draw would be a good first step in understanding the nature of the machine. Each of the works produced in this series was entirely programmed and drawn through software and hardware. None of the lines or curves was manually drawn either within the computer or in physical reality. Rather, I created a series of different scripts or programs in the computer that would generate not only the work shown here, but an infinite number of variations on a theme. Essential to the programming was understanding the relationships between the robot and human movement and control. Unlike a printer or plotter which draws from one side of the paper to the other, the robot produces the drawings similarly to how a human might: one line at a time. The speed, acceleration, brush type, ink viscosity, and many other variables needed to be considered in the writing of the code.

The contents of each drawing/painting explore a variety of themes but all in some way touch on difference and repetition. I am interested in how a singular element (a line, a circle, a triangle, etc.) can be drawn again and again in an infinite number of different ways to produce something that is more than the sum of its parts. The work is inspired by the techniques of artists such as Sol Lewitt and others who explored procedural processes in the production of their work. The script, or set of rules, as well as the ability or inability of the robot to follow these instructions is the focus of the work. There is almost a primitive and gestural quality to the drawings created through the tension between the rules and the robot’s physical movement. Precisely imprecise.

Using Format