art machines as artists

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It struck me when I saw this photo of “Pica the painter robot” from the Center for Intelligent Robots at National Taiwan University of Science and Technology that Pica was not unlike Chico MacMurtrie‘s drawing robot — a big, monkey-like mechanical beast that would, pen in hand, draw interpretively on paper as MacMurtrie’s musical creatures played songs during the artist’s Ancestral Path midi-controlled musical robot phase, seen in part below (drawbot in background):
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You can watch and listen to an example of the 1997 show here; I worked for Chico’s Amorphic Robot Works on this show as crew for several weeks in Lisbon, Portugal and Berlin, Germany in 1997 so I did indeed help fix and move the machine(s). That’s the personal Pica connection; Chico made his art machines into machine artists, like Pica.
Now, the makers of Pica are getting ready to create the world’s first (or so they say) Robotic Theater, which will make its debut on Dec. 27 by performing the musical “The Phantom of the Opera.” The China Post says,

The theater is comprised of four intelligent robots developed by the Center for Intelligent Robots at National Taiwan University of Science and Technology.

They include a male robot named Thomas and a female robot named Janet, who can walk and are equipped with silicon facial muscles that enable them to mimic the facial expressions and lip motions of a human being. The other two members of the theater are Pica the painter and Ringo the jazz drummer, who move on two wheels.
Chen Shi-shuenn, president of the university, said the Dec. 27 performance will feature Thomas and Janet as the two leading characters in “The Phantom of the Opera”. (read more, chinapost.com.tw, via Engadget)

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