Shapes of Things Before My Eyes, 2017
4-channel video, colour (HD),
sound, 4-track (stereo), 37 min
Since the early twenty-first century, military, governments or private companies have made frequently use of rescue, surveillance and target machines. Starting with the removal of grenades in Bosnia and first usages in Iraq and Afghanistan, today massive and global implementation is growing rapidly. Current technological developments made these machines able to navigate in their surrounding environment, to perform behaviours or tasks, self-maintenance and to take decisions with a high degree of autonomy. The video was filmed through the eyes of a rescue robot, ‘Wowbagger’, developed at the robotic department at the Graz University of Technology. Named after the famous, immortal and arrogant character of Douglas Adam’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the unmanned vehicle won several international rescue robotics prizes. For this video, it travelled (semi-)autonomously through the depot of the Natural History Museum, a more than 200 years-old bountiful archive of artefacts from nature. This collection is both a laboratory in which restorers and researchers work together and a testament to the scientific vision of modern society as a constant process of constructing images of nature. With all its sensors (electromagnetic, chemical, gas, temperature), various cameras (wide-angel, zoom, 3D, infrared, night vision) and laser scanners, the robot reveals, learns, records and defines the space of its actions. A machine without humans and a space without life are a constant confrontation with the apocalyptic image of the human construction of the world.
3D mapping: Wowbagger, Matthias Rüther, 2017
Camera: Rescue robot Wowbagger, Staša Tomić
3D mapping: Rescue robot Wowbagger,
Machine vision: Rescue robot Wowbagger,
Robotic machine operators: Michael Stradner, Clemens Mühlbacher
Editing: Studio Staša Tomić
Sound design: Jan Nemeček
Person with mounted animal:
Michael C. Niki Knopp
In collaboration with Natural History Museum, Universalmuseum Joanneum, Graz; Institute for Software Technology, Institute for Computer Graphics and Vision, Institute for Contemporary Art, Graz University of Technology and Museum of Contemporary Art Belgrade.
Exhibition view, Studio of the New Gallery Graz, 2018 © UMJ