Culture

In Prague, Giant Robot Sculpture Watches You

For his latest public sculpture, Czech artist David Cerny creates an ode to photography and voyeurism.

by DJ Pangburn
07 December 2016, 5:05pm

Images courtesy the artist

A week after we wrote about a monolithic, glitched-out moving sculpture of Franza Kafka’s head in Prague, Czech sculptor and artful provocateur David Cerny returned with another giant public sculpture, Trifoot, which features eyes that track the movements of viewers and pedestrians. The sculpture, on permanent display outside the Czech Press Photo gallery in Prague, resembles a vintage motion picture camera sat atop a tripod, and outfitted with several large moving eyes. In this era of ubiquitous smartphone and CCTV cameras, Cerny’s Trifoot reminds us all that we are living inside a massive, electronic panopticon.

“Trifoot was from the first moment related to photography,” Cerny tells The Creators Project. “It is my old passion. While living in New York I was even doing part-time photography, and cameras were my hobby. I always documented my work by myself and so I always had high-end equipment.”

“So that easily lead me to using the form of a camera as base,” he adds. “And then I was thinking about how we are surrounded by cameras, and then you have the eyes following you when you pass by. And when you look at how it, it has a bit of a face from the front.”

While the gaze of smartphone, CCTV, and other cameras certainly influenced Trifoot, Cerny was also inspired by a classic piece of science fiction—John Wyndham’s Day of the Triffids. In this post-apocalyptic novel, tall, mobile, and invasive plants called triffids wreak havoc on the world's population with a poison that causes blindness in humans.

To build Trifoot, Cerny used stainless steel for the tripod and camera base, working with sheets by bending, welding, and laminating. For the eyes, Cerny used various composite materials, and set them in motion with a great deal of electronics components and motors. Two tracking camera send signals to the each eye’s motors through onboard computers.

“The motors with gearboxes are synced with tracking cameras,” Cerny explains. “Everything's Siemens Simotions [Motion Control System]-driven—that’s a brand I work with mostly.”

The final sculpture is pretty close to his early conceptual designs, says Cerny. Some details were changed in the process, but he insists that people would have a hard time telling the difference between his renders and photographs of the actual finished sculpture.

Cerny would not say exactly how Day of the Triffids influenced Trifoot, but it seems as if he is suggesting that even with all of our cameras, and the sharing and collecting of still images and videos on social media, we may not be seeing as clearly as we like to think we are.  

Cerny is currently working on a mid-sized installation that will be placed in a public space this spring, but is remaining tight-lipped about it. And when not flying and screwing, as he puts it, Cerny is negotiating several other public sculpture requests from around the world, and tending to his multimedia art space MeetFactory, where he cultivates other artists’ and their work.

“[So], I don't feel too productive, but I’m trying to fulfill what I promise in terms of commissions,” says Cerny. “I can imagine doing maybe twice more with no trouble if I have have more interesting projects.”

Trifoot is on permanent display outside the Czech Press Photo gallery in Prague. Click here to see more of David Cerny’s work.

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Tagged:
machines
robots
sculpture
David Černý
public sculpture
Day of the Triffids
John Wyndham
Trifoot