*anat, synapse + ai lab, university of zurich*

girltron is a series of art works examining robots as subjects of culture, and perceptions people have of machines; with particular emphasis on how we personalise technology, and how these interactions make us feel. Aspects of the girltron project have included producing conceptual mixed media sculptures and digital images, an interactive website, exhibitions and a series of artist talks and workshops.

The AI Lab at the University of Zurich consists of researchers from a large diversity of backgrounds such as computer science, mathematics, physics, biology, ethology, neuroscience, psychology, philosophy, mechanical and electronic engineering co-operating on a number of projects towards the overall goal of understanding intelligence. All projects contribute to this central theme, and can be broadly applied beyond the field of AI proper, to how we view ourselves and the world around us.

I was invited to be an artist in residence at the AI Lab, University of Zurich and with the support of the Australia Council for the Arts travelled there in 2007 for a period of research and development. The AI Lab invited me as they were interested in learning about Karakuri (Japanese mechanical doll tradition) and how it could be combined with modern technology. I proposed producing the Karakuri inspired robot ‘girltron‘ in collaboration with the researchers at the Lab.

I am so honoured to have received support from ANAT via the Synapse initiative to now produce ‘girltron‘ and continue to work with the AI Lab in Zurich. My Synapse residency builds upon past initiatives encouraged and facilitated within the ‘Artists in Labs‘ (AIL) series of residencies, where numerous projects have been hosted and realized within the AI Lab in Zurich.

Below is a brief summary about the ‘girltron‘ project-

“girltron will be intricate and sophisticated, incorporating traditional craft practice with sophisticated Artificial Intelligence (AI) techniques to create an embodied interactive character. Mechanical elements used in traditional Japanese Karakuri puppet performance will be employed to convey different forms of abstract expression. girltron aims to highlight the importance of fusing science with broader cultural and social aspects, whilst recognizing the role of tradition in a modern context.”

Being able to produce my project in Switzerland is a dream come true! There is such a long history in both Switzerland and Japan, via respective traditions, relating to mechancical clocks and automata. . I am so excited to be able to immerse myself in Swiss automata culture, being based at the AI lab surrounded by modern research and technology, whilst utilising my knowledge of Karakuri.