As tools have evolved into machines seamlessly melted into information and data so governance has also evolved. Christiansborg Palace and government building on the islet of Slotholmen in central Copenhagen Denmark, is one focus of the artificial life installation C / Borg – The Parliament of Robots.

The present building is the last in a series of successive castles and palaces constructed on the site since the construction of the first castle in 1167. Since the fifteenth century this building have evolved and now serve as the base of the central administration.  Until 1794 it was the principal residence of the Danish kings and since 1849 has served as the seat of parliament. It is now the seat of the Ministers office, Danish Parliament, and the Supreme Court of Denmark.

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Christiansborg Palace in Copenhagen Slotsholmen. Photo (CC) by Julian Herzog

 

As artist I admire Denmark’s governance on a number of levels. First, from a country such as the US where many feel our government is unresponsive to the people and their wishes, I am drawn to this palace and how it iconically represents an ideal of government that sees, provides for, and responds to the people.

The evolution of the palace from king’s castle / home to the seat of government and the various styles of architecture reflect distinct eras of Danish architecture and governance.  Fires and politics have also been central to the formation of its current architectural statement, as the evolution of any governance is related to time and, sometimes, chance happenings. The first fire in 1794 and the second in 1884 have had an influence on the castle and its current architecture.

The fires also parallel the civil, organizational, and institutional evolution of Denmark and as such the architecture of Christiansborg Palace is really a living and evolving architecture. The current palace, finished in 1928 with a Neo-Baroque style is simply remarkable. The chapel completed in 1826 in a neoclassical style also adds to the layers-in-time expression of this work of architecture and Denmark’s evolution.

The palace is both a symbol and a vibrant living structure.

To an outsider, especially from the US where income inequality is high, Denmark looks ideal: a country with open education and universal healthcare. As a leader in wind development and for me as daily bike rider, I admire and follow websites like http://www.copenhagenize.com/2015/10/cargo-bike-nation-copenhagen.html and admire the central role bikes play in daily life. In the process of thinking about this installation work I also discover my Danish roots. On my mother’s side I learn that my grandmother’s parents were both immigrants who came to Ellis island in the 1800’s. My great grandmother and grandfather; Nils and Stohl built their own house and as farmers they were poor. My great-grandmother wore flour sack clothing and they both moved to Wisconsin in the US and changed their names.

C / Borg – Parliament of Robots at DIAS Digital Interactive Art Space invited by chief curator Morten Søndergaard and director of DIAS Rasmus Vestergaard will consist of interactive robotic sculptures inspired by the culture, nature, and political organization of Denmark and its relation to an evolving global politic of robots and machine vision. As machines and critical information infrastructures and their algorithms are increasingly used to navigate the constructed and the virtual world, as well as our natural world, questions arise about how they structure our relationships to the natural living systems that support us.

Could robots show sensitivity to a natural living systems, given their epistemological tendencies to simplify the world with reductionist code?  How do robots influence and structure ideas about our world and its future? Do robots amplify or diminish life and can a living systems find symbiotic intertwining and coevolved coupling within technological infrastructures that are now part of what appears to be autonomous machine replication?

As all life, including code based emergent machine life, is foundational and dependent on natural living systems, this installation will create hybrids, where machine, nature and station and its living traveling participants will coexist within an artificial life art ecosystem, integrating machine and natural systems.

Entering the station you experience responsive robots on the ceiling moving to your movement. When you are still they are still.

 

These artificial life robots inspired by Christiansborg Palace will hang from the ceiling of the station like caring fingers of a sea anemone and will function as Robot Folketing / Parliament of Robots responding to individuals as legislation and governance responds to the will of the people. The constitution requires equal representation of the various opinions of the electorate.  These robots will also respond to one and many individuals collectively as metaphor for this extreme example of representational government.  The Danish political system is characterized by a fusion of powers with the government being drawn from the ranks of the Folketing.

These fingers will respond when viewers pass. One robot will influence another robot as they are first visually activated with RGB LED colors and then motion.

Some of the C / Borg – The Parliament of Robots will be given birth on laser cutters in natural wood and will allow replication of large numbers to fill the station with this living sculpture.  Each robot will be about 40 – centimeters long. They will be placed in the station to be out of easy reach of passing viewers.

 

These laser cut and constructed robotic buildings have Christiansborg Palace as iconic point of departure and conflate contemporary architectonic forms with a totemic robotic form. They further play with potentials afforded in the process of making and sculpting with lasers and code based replication with the logic the machine and it’s nature tend influence.

 

 

Data / Site / Interaction

Varieties of drawing robots will capture and create drawings that are the result of humans walking and interacting with one drawing robot. Another drawing robot will capture the sounds of the train and whistle and translate that into a drawing. Outside the station microphones will capture, birds chirping and other natural elements near the station and will allow a third drawing robot to make drawings based on these sounds.

The collection of this natural and machine data in relation to interaction of passing passengers with the analog accretive outputs will create semi organized and chaotic drawings.

These will hang on the walls in the main entrance and keep an abstract count of human, machine and nature.

These works will be activated with ultrasonic and sound sensors connecting to Arduino code, allowing each drawing to evolve in time.

 

Closeup of drawing machine making drawings to the train arriving and departing

 

Pens with large storage tanks will be used. As the plexiglass and sheets of plywood for this work are sourced in Denmark and the motor hangers and clips are lightweight, this work travels with low dimensional and physical weight.

 

DIAS C / Borg Drawing robot holder for steppers; version #2 in PLA rapid prototyping plastic on birch plywood

 

DIAS C / Borg Drawing robot holder for steppers; side view version #2 in PLA rapid prototyping plastic

 

Danish texts constitutional / poetic

10-15 LED works ascending the stairs will be displaying constitutional text elements moving, as well as other philosophies and/or current discussions of public record important to Danish issues at hand . . may also be streamed live. The works will be encased in diamond plate steel or aluminum, with a reflective quality that will shimmer and have reflectance along the stairs allowing the text to be seen in reverse and shattered by the lensing of the diamond plate. The affect is relevant to the evolution and cascading of ideas in time as the words are recreated in miniature lenses. The moving LEDs will also act as beacon and lighting along stair being opposite the bike ramp.

 

 

C / Borg – Parliament of Robots text elements test # 2 running for 3 weeks continuously.

 

An expandable lycra Intertwining LUR sculpture will change light based on the arrival and departure of the trains. While the form is inspired by the LUR they will be placed in the mid landing of the station, reflecting in bright yellow and pink film on the windows and be signal to viewers with sound and light as trains arrive.

The interior of the space would have colored film yellow on the left and pink on the right. Mirrored surfaces will be placed along window 40 centimeters up, to reflect trains and sky.

Intertwining LUR lycra and LED, sound sculpture

 

Semaphores / Machine Sonification / Emotion

Varieties of semaphore robots are being explored. Potentially hanging from the walls at the entrance, these flag based symbolic works, signaling to the future of our planet. These will be networked; at times working in synchrony and at times doing individual dances/spinning.

They will have flowing soft elements with images on printed silk to capture the motion of the robots and wind through the space as the station doors open and close. These may hang from the ceilings and a few on the walls in main entrance.

The steppers motors make interesting sounds, and I will use that sound as part of the aesthetic of this portion of the C / Borg – Parliament of Robots.

 

Version # 2 stepper motor holder for Semaphore bots

 

Virtual / Real Dialogue

Since Denmark was the first country I was able to realize a crowd sourced project at Aalborg University with the invitation of chief curator/researcher/professor Morten Søndergaard and artist/professor Laura Belhoff, I will also be envisioning a future within the physical station that is a virtual recreation of the station.

When you exit the station virtually, you will be entering a proposed future scenario of Copenhagen where artists and futurists will be constructing and imagining the future with virtual rooms first 3D modeled / texture mapped and constructed in the Unity game engine with first person controller allowing individuals to both navigate the virtual imaginations of international artists about a proposed future and for others to watch that navigation both locally and internationally. A local person will control the exploration of the rooms created by these artists.

This will create a national and international dialogue about education and government, and the function of artists, researchers and citizens in creating their ideal worldespecially with machines and advanced technologies of electronic and mechanical control. Artists and creative folks are generally quite adept at evolving technologies especially when unconstrained by market forces. The manifestation of the virtual Copenhagen will be

In this virtual space we may see the mini fruit fly printers of Laura Belhoff and the green worm reprocessing worlds of artist Amy Youngs and sound installations by TradeMark Gunderson.  These elements of the work will allow a true international dialogue between the collective brain trust of Denmark and with a planet of thinkers, makers and terraformers — a dialogue about the function of the arts and government in the evolution of contemporary cultures.

The Politics of the Machines – Art and After

Chief curator Morten Søndergaard and artist/professor Laura Belhoff  will be hosting an international conference at the same time as the premiere of this work.

The POLITICS OF THE MACHINES – ART AND AFTER EVA-Copenhagen 2018 will take place concurrently with the opening of C / Borg – The Parliament of Robots.

Living Systems / machine gestures

A number of slow growing, hanging planters fabricated from rapid prototyping processes will host epiphytes (air plants) and local mosses of Denmark; bladmosser; hepatopsida, anthoceratopsida, spagnopsida, andreaseopsida and electronic monitoring and watering is in research.

Epiphyte Danish Moss bot holder 3D visualization

 

Epiphyte Danish Moss bot holder version #2 rapid prototyped

Electronics / sensing / actuation

The works will be robotized with Arduino micro controllers, Xbee and Zigbee networking, motor shields and Arduino programming. Passive infrared sensors within each robotic palace allows them to be responsive to passing viewers as they move through the station. Motor shields designed for DC gear-head motors and/or stepper motors will be utilized in order to drive the C / Borg bots.

Power supplies will reside nearby within imbedded hanging planters holding epiphytes and mosses of Denmark and will bring 12 volt DC (Direct Current) to each robot.

That voltage will also be regulated down to 5 volts to supply the Arduino micro controllers. The robots will be using low power and therefore be energy efficient. As the C / Borg robots will only move when viewers pass through the station they will otherwise be at rest, adding to their functioning longevity.

Custom designed and laser cut Scotch yoke mechanical devices are being developed for fail-safe motor actuation of monofilament pull strings that will run through the palace for movement in response to sensor activation. Four passive infrared sensors placed around each robot will give eight quadrants of sensing and actuation.

Rapid prototyped Scotch yoke version # 1 to turn stepper motor circular-motion into linear-motion, for moving C / Borg Bots.


Software / Behavior / Misbehavior / Mesh Networks

The software is a variant of the subsumption architecture of MIT and will allow a distributed flocking behavior based on emergent behaviors of the robots reacting to the human presence and reacting and interacting with each other.

They will emerge in this process. Emergence can be described as individual elements emerging into an organic whole, through the interactions of localized sensing and actuation behaviors.

All robots will move toward the body heat of humans moving through the space. The robots will also respond to each other with a distributed mesh network of sensors and actuators, so the individual robots will form a large a-life robotic organism.

One moving C / Borg bot will cause a cascade of other C / Borg bots to move and respond in like manner given humans proximity to the robots.

XBee ZigBee 802 network test with Arduino #1 passive infrared sensor causing motor to move clockwise and send that data wirelessly to Arduino #2 on right. One mimics the others behavior as an emerging body language for the C / Borg Bots.

 

Test #1 of XBee’s talking to each other via a wireless network.

Lighting / Visual / Emotional

Lighting will be an important component both actually and metaphorically. Bright RGB LED boards are placed inside each C / Borg robot allowing constantly changing, flickering colors to project light of varying intensities onto the ceilings and walls of the Vallensbæk Station DIAS.

Colorful silken flags may hang onto mini flagpoles at the end of each robot and allow a sense of fluid motion as the robots move toward humans and each other.

High brightness RGB LED board for interior of C / Borg bots

Public Discussion / Participation / Education

A component will be to provide road maps for future makers on how to approach prototyping and building robots. A few may be donated to high schools and colleges around Denmark to experiment with and to stimulate a conversation about recyclable materials, critical making, robotics technology and the future of government.

The discussions would involve conceptualization, sustainability issues, advanced manufacturing techniques, robotic control as well as artificial life programming techniques.

Other possibilities are to make the robots open source, so others can print them with their own laser cutters and or 3D printers. The software may also be open source and allow others to experiment and control what they have created.

 

Danish Local / International Web Outreach

As part of the installation a couple of the smaller rooms, like the one on the Vallensbæk train Station platform and the one below in the entrance, could have video projectors and closed loop cameras showing the installation and also allowing people to enjoy the work locally and internationally. Locally the camera would be a direct feed of a camera that is focused on a natural part of the surrounding green space of the station allowing those on the platform to watch and see nature space as a projection map onto the walls. Internationally, web cameras would allow folks to remotely view the work, through web capable cameras connecting to their desktop computers through web browsers. The web outreach cameras would allow international folks to reflect on the meaning of the work and the benefit of responsive and engaged environments and governments to the needs of the people. (Subject to approval by Station Staff)

Thanks to; the DIAS curatorial board contemporary artist, Morten Søndergaard (dk), curator, assistant professor – Aalborg Universitet, København, Rasmus Vestaargard Chief curator DIAS, contemporary artist Jamie Allen, Jens Houser (de/fr), researcher, curator,  Mogens Jacobsen (dk), artist, independent researcher, Michael Juul Holm (dk), curator – Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Angelika Dahl Serritzlew (dk), art consultant, external lecturer – University of Copenhagen, and Hanna Wirman(fi), Research Assistant Professor – PolyU Design, Hong Kong  and Marie Bach Nielsen.

I feel the open source nature will stimulate an important dialogue about the media arts in particular as a place of informed engagement and learning.  The arts play a central function in the continuing success of Denmark and I feel this work would make DIAS Digital Interactive Art Space Vallensbæk Station, an important destination for national and international travelers.

Please notice that in the link below, it can also be read in Danish, though the machine translation will be…well machine translation.  🙂

DIAS Digital Interactive Art Space
Vallensbæk Station
2665 Vallensbæk Strand

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Early Visuals..

 

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3D Mockup of the installation on the top deck of DIAS Digital Interactive Art Space at the Vallensbæk Station with 16 C-Borg Bots