The Virtual Watchers by Joana Moll and Marius-Pé Joana-Moll, speaking at Disruption Network Lab
Bots are all over the internet, following you on Twitter, masquerading as web traffic, and chatting to you as online assistants, and now they're the subject of a new exhibition coming to London this weekend. Abandon Normal Devices' (AND) The Art of Bots, running Friday the 15 to Saturday, April 16, will take place at Somerset House and feature performance, debates, workshops, and artworks.
The event will highlight that, as well as being an online nuisance, bots can also be applied to creative and humorous endeavors. In fact there's a whole micro-community who use bot softwares for tasks that aren't malicious or commercial. Artist Matthew Plummer-Fernandez, who previously created a show of cartoon characters distorted by data, has co-curated a showcase of such artists.
"Bots have fascinated me for a long time, and I’m certainly not alone, some bots have tens of thousands of followers!" Matthew Plummer-Fernandez says. "Behind the bots we find a growing community of practitioners eagerly experimenting with what in essence is not a new medium but a new take on any medium by having it acted out by semi-autonomous characters driven by software, data, chance and wit. These characters relentlessly perform again and again, engaging with audiences over long periods of time, in ways we haven’t seen before.”
Seam-Sorting, Mountain Sunset by Jeff Thompson
Bots also take the form of online works created by groups like art collective !Mediengruppe Bitnik, whose work Random Darknet Shopper involved sending a bot on a darknet shopping spree where it randomly bought drugs—ecstasy, for instance—pirated goods, and other nefarious items which were then sent to a gallery.
As well as bots' artistic application, their more unsavory uses will be explored; a Disruption Network Lab talk by Tatiana Bazzichell looks at bots and surveillance; and debates will look at their increasing sophistication in terms of emulating human thought and behaviour. Although they're a modern technological phenomenon, the event will also look at their lineage in art history, like their relationships to automata and art movements like dada and Fluxus.
“Over recent years, tiny, automated and nonsensical beings have infiltrated our daily life via twitter and email," Gabrielle Jenks, director at Abandon Normal Devices said. "They have taken delight in agitation by imitating human behaviors. Their repetitive and often simple actions have brought fun to—and often poked fun at—the internet platforms that now mediate our lives. The Art of Bots is a topical enquiry into a new form of art-making and the international communities surrounding their creation. It builds on a lineage of AND productions and experiments, which playfully examine the creative and political potential of networked and new technologies.”
Mirror Lake by Katie Rose Pipkin
The Art of Bots takes place April 15-16, 2016, at River Rooms, Somerset House, London. Click here for more info.