Contemporary art and engineering research are both at their best when things don't turn out as planned. I'll present selected examples based on artworks developed with students and other collaborators involving robots and networks over the past 20 years. These projects set out to investigate intersections of technology and nature, such as
the Telegarden, a robot installation that allowed online participants to remotely tend a living garden; Ballet Mori, a classical dance performed to sounds triggered by live seismic data; and Demonstrate, where an ultra high-resolution video camera raised eyebrows at the 40th anniversary of the Free Speech Movement. Every project led to
unexpected twists and complications...
I'll also argue that the languages of contemporary art and engineering research are complex, dynamic, and often frustratingly impenetrable to outsiders. In art, a blue disk can be a cliche, or, in the right place at the right time, profound. In engineering, analogous contexts determine the beauty of a coordinate frame or mathematical equation. In both spheres, aesthetic interpretation is based on knowledge of
prior art and contemporary dialogues. Being so similar, it is not surprising that unexpected forces arise when these two spheres are brought together.
Ken Goldberg is an artist and professor of engineering at UC Berkeley. Goldberg's art installations such as the Telegarden have been exhibited at the Whitney Biennial, Venice Biennale, Pompidou Center (Paris), Walker Art Center, Ars Electronica (Linz Austria), ZKM (Karlsruhe), ICC Biennale (Tokyo), Kwangju Biennale (Seoul), Artists Space, and The Kitchen (New York). He has held visiting positions at San Francisco Art Institute, MIT Media Lab, and Pasadena Art Center. The Tribe, a short film he co-wrote, was selected for the Sundance and Tribeca Film Festivals. Ballet Mori, a multi-media project he developed to commemorate the 1906 Earthquake, was performed by the SF Ballet at the San Francisco Opera House.
Goldberg is an IEEE Fellow and Vice President of Technical Activities for the Robotics and Automation Society. His PhD is in Computer Science from Carnegie Mellon University and he has published over 150 research papers on robotics, automation, and geometric algorithms. He is editor of several books, including The Robot in the Garden: Telerobotics and Telepistemology in the Age of the Internet (MIT
Press, 2000). Goldberg is Founding Director of Berkeley's Art, Technology, and Culture Colloquium.
Goldberg was awarded the National Science Foundation Young Investigator Award in 1994, the NSF Presidential Faculty Fellowship in 1995, the Joseph Engelberger Robotics Award in 2000, the IEEE Major Educational Innovation Award in 2001.