Kinetica Art Fair 2012


Written by Jack Sharp
Photos and illustrations by Fiona Byrne
12 Sunday 12th February 2012

Pony, Tim Lewis

I venture over to another one of Tim’s pieces, which happens to resemble a kiwi. Suspended from a robotic arm, this one looks a bit friendlier. In fact, it’s quite cute, and is busy collecting little tubes of foam, apparently in a futile attempt to build a nest. Once again, its movements are astonishingly realistic.

Kiwi, Tim Lewis

Out of all the works on display, one piece in particular popular, possibly due to its uniquely interactive element. Created by Anna Dumitriu and Alex May, in collaboration with Professor Kerstin Dautenhahn and Dr Michael L Walters, the piece is called My Robot Companion. The piece is a robot that takes features from visitors’ faces and combines them with features from their friends and family’s faces based on their proximity to the robot.

My Robot Companion, Anna Dumitriu & Alex May

The robot accurately reproduces the face of the person standing in front of it. Onlookers generally seem highly amused by staring at a computerised mock up of their own face, but it doesn’t always present of a positive reaction. Some attendees look utterly repulsed by the corpse-like interpretation of their own face, and this, it would seem, isn’t unusual. Standing in a room full of robots, I feel I'm deep in uncanny valley (the phenomenon experienced by humans when robots become very humanlike, but stop short of being fully human). Although, rather than repulsion, the feeling I’m experiencing for my robotic clone is simply one of mild-contempt. Admittedly, the face staring back at me is horrific, but I can’t help feeling partially responsible for its existence.

One of my favourite pieces here at Kinetica is Alexander Berchert ‘s Water Wheel, which consists of perspex tubes filled with food colouring attached to a wheel. As the wheel slowly rotates, the food colouring travels through the tubes to mesmerising effect. 

Water Wheel, Alexander Berchert

Leif Maginnis’ work is also particularly captivating, and is based on the stroboscopic effect of fluorescent-coloured objects moving under ultraviolet strobe lights. In darkened room, Leif has arranged a number of rotating circular screens, each one fitted with two knobs. On the dart board-like screen, colours spin causing a strobe effect. Attendees turn the two knobs, thereby changing the speed of the rotation and brightness of the ultraviolet light. The purpose of the piece, as explained by Leif himself, is to hopefully evoke a state of trance in the viewer, much like watching a fire.

Stroboscope, Leif Maginnis

Piotr JÄ™drzejewski’s work also resonated with me. JÄ™drzejewski has exhibited a clockwork bird that travels along two wires while flapping its wings. Eventually, the creature reaches the end of the wire, detects this, and then travels all the way back again. It’s a bizarre, beautifully old fashioned-style contraption, and is clearly striking a chord with the attendees.

Kinetica Art Fair has been a truly fascinating experience. The atmosphere here today has been friendly and the work on display seems to have excited and moved people in equal measures. There really hasn’t been a dull moment. It really is fun for the whole family, with the pieces on show that are both accessible and fabulously inventive. Patrick Tresset’s creation, Paul the Robot, epitomises the innovative art on show. Paul has been busy drawing tremendously detailed portraits of attendees since I arrived. It’s astonishing to observe and leaves one wondering where the artist ends and the robot begins.

Paul the Robot, Patrick Tresset

Find out more about Kinetica Art Fair at

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