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ADA - analog interactive installation / kinetic sculpture / post-digital drawing machine

Similiar to Tinguely's «Méta-Matics», is "ADA" an artwork with a soul. It acts itself. At Tinguely's it is sufficient to be an unwearily struggling mechanical being. He took it wryly: the machine produces nothing but its industrial self-destruction. Whereas «ADA» by Karina Smigla-Bobinski, is a post-industrial "creature", visitor animated, creatively acting artist-sculpture, self-forming artwork, resembling a molecular hybrid, such as a one from nano biotechnology. It developes the same rotating silicon-carbon-hybrids, midget tools, miniature machines able to generate simple structures.
«ADA» is much larger, esthetical much complexer, an interactive art-making machine. Filled up with helium, floating freely in room, a transparent, membrane-like globe, spiked with charcoals that leave marks on the walls, ceilings and floors. Marks which «ADA» produces quite autonomously, although moved by a visitor. The globe obtains aura of liveliness and its black coal traces, the appearance of being a drawing . The globe put in action, fabricate a composition of lines and points, which remains incalculable in their intensity, expression, form however hard the visitor tries to control «ADA», to drive her, to domesticate her. Whatever he tries out, he would notice very soon, that «ADA» is an independent performer, studding the originally white walls with drawings and signs. More and more complicated fabric structure arise. It is a movement exprienced visually, which like a computer make an unforeseeable output after entering a command. Not in vain « ADA» reminds of Ada Lovelace, who in 19th century together with Charles Babbage developed the very first prototype of a computer. Babbage provided the preliminary computing machine, Lovelace the first software. A symbiosis of mathematics with the romantic legacy of her father Lord Byron emmerged there. Ada Lovelace intended to create a machine that would be able to create works of art, such as poetry, music, or pictures, like an artist does. «ADA» by Karina Smigla-Bobinski stands in this very tradition, as well as in the one of Vannevar Bush, who build a Memex Maschine (Memory Index) in 1930 ("We wanted the memex to behave like the intricate web of trails carried by the cells of the brain"), or the Jacquard's loom, that in order to weave flowers and leaves needed a punch card; or the "analytic machine" of Babbage which extracted algorithmic paterns.
«ADA» uprose in nowadays spirit of biotechnology. She is a vital performance-machine, and her paterns of lines and points, get more and more complex as the number of the audience playing-in encreases. Leaving traces which neither the artist nor visitors are able to decipher, not to mention «ADA» herself either. And still, «ADA‘s» work is unmistakable potentially humane, because the only available decoding method for these signs and drawings , is the association which our brain corresponds at the most when it configures itself.

© ADA - analoge interactive installation by Karina Smigla-Bobinski written by Arnd Wesemann

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Artist Talk (Ger. with Engl. Subtitles)

Jean Tinguely, Méta-Matic No. 6
(source: geertjonkers)

(source: AFP news agency)

Memex by Vannevar Bush
(source: SheffieldLibraryGuy)

Nanorobots Replacing Neurons
(source: CG4TV)

Interview by Katherine Wong for “OVERS!ZE” book project

K.W.: What was ADA originally produced for?
K.S-B.: ADA is a result of my thoughts and inquiries about the fundamental idea of ‘computer as a machine’ that can remember and create works of art, such as poetry, music, or pictures like an artist. I have developed ADA without a client. After she was finished in 2010, curators Ricardo Barreto and Paula Perissinotto invited ADA, as the first, to FILE Festival 2011 in São Paulo, Brazil. Then came FAD Festival in Belo Horizonte (Brazil), FACT Foundation in Liverpool (U.K.), FILE Festival in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) and ZERO1 Biennial in Silicon Valley (U.S.), GARAGE Center for Contemporary Culture in Moscow (Russia), etc..

K.W.: What kind of influences do Ada Lovelace and Jean Tinguely have on you?
K.S-B.: I did the same by looking at “machines” today as an artist and building a post-industrial and post-digital “creature” that resembles a molecular hybrid (such as one from nano biotechnology) with the ability to produce artworks through an open source method. In connection to copy-right debate, there appears a very interesting question too — what is exactly the work of art? The balloon, the drawings on the wall or both? :-) On the other hand, Jean Tinguely was an artist who disapproved the commercialisation of art and had built kinetic artworks out of industrial age machine parts, of which some are generative, like Métamatics that could draw on its own. Some other of his artworks were designed to be self-destructive, which he described as “under destruction”, a creative force and structural transformation. I developed the idea of Jean Tinguely, where a kinetic artwork expanded itself by the action with which I entrusted the visitors. The visitors thus became the driving force responsible for the expansion of ADA. From every aspect, Jean Tinguely paved the way for me.

K.W.: With ADA, what kind of experience did you intend to bring to the public and the exhibition space?
K.S-B.: The normal, traditional way of viewing art is to go to gallery and look, but the participation is confined to looking and nothing more. All reactions occur inside the viewers’ head instead of physically to the piece. Interactivity in art stands out as a way to connect with the audience. This contact between art and the public creates a relationship that involves the viewer personally in the project. The best part of interactive art installations is when you can use your body which then turns you into a part of the art piece. When we talk about interactivity, we imagine it as a digitally-created, non-physical experience which computers and electronics have very often forced into the foreground. But ADA as a post-digital artwork does not need programming because ADA is an analogue interactive kinetic sculpture. Same as my other works, it is very important for me that the entrance into the practical experience of art is possible for everyone and that visitors may decide how far they dip into the art experience according to their ability or will. I like the fact that visitors are able to work with the intuition in my installations and use their body to explain how they work. Here, as ADA is put in action by visitors, she would then fabricate a composition of lines and points which are incalculable in their intensity and expression. By exerting control on ADA, constantly visitors would fall into some kind of a trance as they try to govern ADA’s drawing path. Sometimes people forget where they are and that ADA is balloon vulnerable to damages. They might sometimes get a little bit too rough with her.

K.W.: Do you consider ADA a machine or a being?
K.S-B.: ADA is constructed to have her own will. Once you set her into motion she just works away. What ADA produces is very humane because she seems to respond to some of a human instincts. The only method to decode these signs and drawings is to understand them as the intuitive association of our jazzy dreams and thoughts. It is a good feeling of having created a piece of art that is autonomous and that it would not be complete without visitors. Within the balloon-space-people relation, visitors are obliged to respond. That was my intention when I built ADA for the first time, but the reality got beyond my wildest dreams. Perhaps it is an intuitive reaction of the body that provokes us to stretch our hands to catch or push the ball and not let it drop. It floats weightlessly in the air and changes the perception. The more she is handled by visitors, the blacker she gets from the charcoal and thus seems more “alive”. Even I, who built her, sometimes get the illusion that she is a living thing. Already at her first public appearance in São Paulo, visitors asked where ‘uma bola com carbon (a ball with charcoal)’ was as they looked for ADA. But after they interacted with ADA, they referred to ADA using the name or “she”, so did the many English visitors at FACT Liverpool. So it happened that I use “ADA” or “she” now, too. Anyway the concept of ADA is a temporal “under destruction” artwork with her lifetime equal to the duration of an exhibition. Her age will progress with the number of people who visits her, their temperament and the galleries’ supervision on site.

K.W.: What was it like creating and building ADA? How did ADA conceive its unique form and look?
K.S-B.: While Ada Lovelace’s idea of a machine laid the grounds for ADA, in the new post-industrial age where the Web is born of a desire for speedy and open access to information and nanotechnology comes from a desire for speed and miniaturisation, ADA becomes the common ground for both nano-switch networks and human brains, which explains how she generates marks like when a switchnetwork configures itself to create “quick routes”, in the structure of a synapse. If, in this very serious scientific world, we could follow the White Rabbit and fall into the world of art, we might imagine that it makes no difference whether ADA is alive or not when we consider ADA as a nano creature. As Scottish physicist James Gimzewski concluded, together with Masakazu Aono, the creator of the first nano-switch, and Argentine neurologist Dante Chialvo, the basic mechanism of the brain is the same as the basic dynamics of nano-switches. Knowing this and inspired by Ada Lovelace’s poetic way of thinking, I took the idea of the nano-machine which then I manipulated on the scale against the standards with silicone, helium and carbon. I created an art machine, an independent creature capable of claiming the whole room for itself and eventually along with visitors.

K.W.: How do size and scale matter to ADA?
K.S-B.: Size and scale decide our perception and how we deal with the interactive artwork. The relation between our bodies and the artwork is crucial. If the artwork is smaller than we are, then it is subjected to us and thus, be absorbed or rejected. And if it is equivalent to our size, then it will mutate into a counterpart which we have to act toward. But when the artwork is bigger, much bigger than us, then it will become a superordinate which we are compelled to absorb and be subjected. We would have to respond to it, arrange ourselves or leave it. For ADA, the last two conditions apply. Relatively equivalent in size, visitors would perceive ADA as their counterpart. As for the drawings which covered the entire gallery space, the lines would exert influences on the visitors, whom simultaneously become part of the work.

K.W.: What do you expect the audience to take away after interacting with ADA?
Is it necessary for them to understand why you built ADA?
K.S-B.: In all exhibitions with ADA, I observed and spoke with the visitors (ranging from children to NASA employees). To those who reflected on this work, their ideas seemed to go with my thoughts. This is like a controlled free fall into the hole of the White Rabbit. Similar, for example, to the experience of the still life paintings from the 17th and 18th century, the concern of a painter was on the one hand to grasp the nature and objects of everyday life in their beauty and play, and convey a hidden message or a mental content on the other hand. To read these coded messages (then as now) you have to dip deep into the art experience. However, those that remain on the surface, they also can find satisfaction in the aesthetics of visual experience (beauty of the presentation). There were also those who ignore all that and create his own reading mode and meaning. In this case, it was interesting for me to know their thoughts.

K.W.: Where would ADA go after the exhibitions?
K.S-B.: After the ADAs are back, they remain in the boxes in which they are returned to me. ADA is “under destruction”, meaning they will not be washed or repaired. For a new exhibition, I build a new ADA and each ADA has only one life. I will rather continue to drive the destruction as I have in mind the decomposition of ADA into its individual parts and the parts might create small documentary sculptural objects as mementos of the interactions.

K.W.: Among all the interactive projects you’ve been involved, which one do you enjoy most and why?
K.S-B.: The first artwork that comes to mind is ADA because it is the current project, but also ALIAS which can be understood as a metaphor for the dependency of art — without a viewer or visitor it is trapped in an incomplete existence. The visitor are alienated in an intimate situation. The strange confrontation with the personal shadow and the appearance of a stranger inside creates a tension between individuality conceived within one’s own silhouette and the presence of an image of somebody else.

On ADA by Mike Stubbs

How does a large inflatable ball embedded with oversized charcoal drawing sticks get included in a major exhibition titled “Robots and Avatars” ? What is more, why was this work one of the most popular artworks of all the technologically future-gazing works exhibited at FACT in Liverpool ?

This work of all the robots and avatars, best tested our relationship to cybernetics.
It is a contrast to works that stand in awe before technology, as many first generation media artworks of the nineties did, incorporating a modernism still celebrating technology.

Despite employing high technology, the significant practice of David Rokeby through the eighties and nineties took an early critical look at cybernetic systems and their relationship to people via surveillance. Foretelling serious concerns on privacy, data and technology. Yet many media works then and since have not moved beyond augmenting the experience with complex ‘interaction’ which if anything removes the experience further from the viewer. However ADA enacts an innate understanding of thought, cognition, mechanical action and effect. ADA asks us through play and tactility to engage directly in creating movement and mark making. Just like a hightech computer she is both art and instrument in one, and although she is a kind of a slave to our play, she escapes all voluntary action into unforeseeable movements. It is good art and like much of Smigla-Bobinskis art, performative and participatory.

ADA is a haptic drawing machine. A slave to our desire to move stuff about. Adept and accidental in making beautiful marks that might appear to have been produced by a computer. The origin of the term Robot, is derived from Slavic and Czech words denoting labour, serf-labour and slave.

This creature, ADA, amplifies our impulses and actions, it is a slave to our thoughts like many devices and tools, however this is an artwork intrinsically binding the audience, and in the process creates a spectacle for those observing the artwork being performed. When ADA is not played with, dormant, the audience focuses further on the marks, which over time become a continuous surface or pattern. With the mark-making ball absent and without video documentation present, the audience might struggle to work out how these marks were applied. By hand over a long time as an abstract fresco? Or by a computer assisted machine drawing algorithmically, across floor, ceiling and walls. And as with any “non-interactive” work, we, the audience, are left with our thoughts and ability to make our own meaning and draw our own conclusions. The cause of how the marks were made might seem irrelevant within the ontology and imagination of an artwork. But here the process, as in interaction between ADA and the visitor, the drawings on the walls and the ball itself merge into a transient state of art. It is an art-work in its most basic meaning: it is being worked on continually, from the creation of the ball to the last stages of ADAs life, when she rests used up by all inter-actors, surrounded by what they had produced together.

As John Dewey says in the Art of Experience, we know that without prior knowledge of art history or intellectual abstraction, art audiences can witness and be part of an artwork. As in everyday life we take meaning, where cognition and experience meet through direct interaction. Ontology here is this direct interaction, and the viewer, who is able to draw and be part of the production, becomes what we might call a pro-sumer (producer-consumer).

ADA is just one of Smigla-Bobinskis works which is perfectly well located in time based practice. Bridging kinetic art, drawing, installation, performance and sculpture, her works contain the method of their making, they are direct art, which foregrounds the material, movement through time and affect in mark making.

This is not to say that all artworks require a relationship with a third party to be complete, however, when a consumer is actually partially producing the artwork, through direct participation, completion is more avert. We see ADA in different states pumped up and buoyant – ready to bounce against clean walls - and tired, deflated after several weeks of ab-use from over enthusiastic kids. This image is as powerful as the work in motion. Kinetic and latent energy. And the beautiful drawing. The documentary photographs are explicit in showing the pleasure most of the audience found in the work, but maybe not all. Like clowns, for some this level of activity is obtrusive and crude, art might be viewed as a reflective mirror of inner quiet. But for an institution, it is gold dust, bringing together engagement, collaboration, participation and wonder, one that is social and democratic.

© Prof. Mike Stubbs (Director of FACT, the Foundation for Art and Creative Technology in Liverpool, UK)


> A Giant Bouncing Ball That Draws On Every Wall It Touches by James Gaddy > Fast Company's Co.Design

"The sculpture's name, Ada, references Ada Lovelace, who, in the 19th century, wrote a series of notes to Charles Babbage about his idea for an “analytical engine."
Some interactive, kinetic sculptures, like Olafur Eliasson’s Weather Project or Roman Ondák’s Measuring the Universe, require the viewer to also help complete it. Others, like AnL Studio’s Lightwave, interact in order to take on anthropomorphic, animated qualities. Well, Karina Smigla-Bobinski’s Ada, an interactive sculpture (...) does both.
The Ada – analog interactive installation is a transparent helium balloon about three feet in diameter with 300 charcoal sticks stuck on the balloon, each about 10 inches apart, using a technique that Smigla-Bobinski developed especially for this artwork. What people do when they come into contact with the floating, membrane-looking spiked globe as it floats around the gallery space is where it gets interesting.

In the video above, some people approach the orb gingerly; other times they grab the charcoal sticks like handles and try to bend it to their will. Some people bounce it around like a beach ball at a baseball game. About halfway through, an old man tries to actually draw something, only to have it wrestled away by the laws of physics. Every time it hits the wall, the charcoal scratches its mark along the walls, turning the alien-looking, transparent membrane into an automatic art-making machine. In this, the sculpture references her namesake, Ada Lovelace, who, in the 19th century, wrote a series of notes related to a paper on her friend Charles Babbage’s “analytical engine,” i.e., computer, which they hoped would also make works of art as well.
Smigla-Bobisnki hints that she's fine with not necessarily even knowing the extent of what she's created: “What here is exactly the work of art?" she wrote in an email to me. Ada? Or the drawing on the wall? ... Or both?” What she begins, the audience completes, and the result is an interesting look at the balance of power in what is essentially a rigged collaboration. “Once you set her into motion, she just works away,” Smigla-Bobinski continues. “The blacker she gets from the charcoal and the more she is handled by visitors, the more she seems to be some kind of alive. Even I, who built her, sometimes gets the illusion of her being a living thing.”

Robots and Avatars Exhibition Review by Josie Jenkins > Art in Liverpool

"The premise for this exhibition lends itself well to interactive art and it was no surprise that the most easily accessible interactive artworks were the most popular with the public. For me, ADA by Karina Smigla-Bobinski, was by far the most fun and clever piece of art I’ve seen for a long time. It is a huge helium filled membrane like globe, with charcoal pieces attached at regular intervals. Referred to as a ‘she’, with her own free will, ADA floats around the room drawing on the walls and ceiling with her charcoal sticks. The viewer can interact with ADA by pushing and spinning her into the walls and together beautiful abstract drawings are created, made up of Cy Twombly style dots and dashes. Some may say the obvious choice, but I think this artwork is truly inspired in concept and practice alike and a must see (or do). (...)" 

Analogue Is the New Digital in 'ADA,' and Interactive Installation by Kasia Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg > The Atlantic

"ADA is an analogue interactive installation made of a giant ball filled with helium, covered in charcoal spikes. As the ball drifts around the space, charcoal marks accumulate on the walls. Visitors can push the ball around the space freely, but the results are never predictable. (...)" 

ADA-analoge interactive installation by Régine Debatty >

"Quick introduction words about the FILE, the Electronic Language International Festival that takes place in São Paulo this Summer. As usual, the event mixes and matches immersive installations, animations movies, performances, machinimas, besides works of web art, documentary, and other goodies you expect from this ambitious new media art festival. This year, however, i've been particularly blown away by the least techy works in the exhibition.
I'll come back to them in the coming days in a more generous report but i'd like to kick off my reports from the festival with a short post about ADA - analog interactive installation, by Karina Smigla-Bobinski. (...)"

FILE festival - the installations by Régine Debatty >

"(...) If you happen to be in or around Sao Paulo this Summer (or Winter, i was told it is Winter over here but super sunny and 25 degrees Celsius is no credible Winter to me) don't miss FILE, the Electronic Language International Festival that takes place at the FIESP Cultural Center and all over the Avenida Paulista till late August. And because FILE makes it its duty to attract the general public and not just the art&tech aficionados, the event is not only free but also packed with surprising installations, games, videos and events. (...) But somehow, i felt that the winners of this edition of FILE were the works showing little or no technology. I already mentioned ADA - analog interactive installation but there were more surprises in store ... Such as Shrink, Lawrence Malstaf's dependable crowd-pleaser. (...)"

Artist's charcoal-studded helium balloon creates mysterious wall drawings by Olivia Solon > Wired

"Artist Karina Smigla-Bobinski has created an installation comprised of an enormous, helium-filled balloon with a hedgehog-like coating of charcoal sticks trapped inside a room.
The balloon floats around the room, leaving charcoal marks on the white walls as it bounces from wall to wall. The piece, called Ada, is being exhibited at the FILE festival in Sao Paulo. (...) Resembling some sort of molecular hybrid, the transparent globe bobs around the room seemingly autonomously. Visitors can push the sphere around the room and watch it react to the external impetus. (...)"

ADA, Um Balão De Hélio Criativo by Natasha Felizi >

"A história de Ada Lovelace comove corações nerds: é mulher; matemática; nobre e, na melhor tradição do ultraromantismo de seu pai, era fraca e doente. Sabemos que ela inventou o primeiro algorítimo para computadores e podemos chamá-la de a namoradinha dos programadores. Não sem justificativa, há muitas homenagens à condessa dos números na produção artístico-tecnológica que costumamos louvar. Exemplos: Ada 2.0b, de Jeraman e ADA – analogue interactive installation de Karina Smigla-Bobinski, exposta no FILE. (...)"

Technical Specifications

description > analog interactive installation / kinetic sculpture / post-digital drawing machine
components > PVC balloon, charcoals, helium, air
dimensions > 3 m diameter
space > variable, most: 10 m long x 6 m wide x 4 m high
Try out > 2010, Kunstverein in Ebersberg by Munich
World premiere > 2011, FILE – Electronic Language Int. Festival / São Paulo (Brazil)

Sponsored by > Hochhinaus Luftwerbegesellschaft mbH >


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