For the first time ever, robot dogs are joining the artist lineup of the NGV Triennial in Melbourne.
NGV director Tony Ellwood has officially announced the lineup of this year’s NGV Triennial and robot dogs are joining the 100 artists who will be tackling three major themes: magic, memory, and matter. The robot dogs who will be working alongside renowned artists such as Yoko Ono, Tracey Emin, and the fashion house Schiaparelli are owned by painter Agnieszka Pilat.
The trained robot dogs of Pilat were made by Boston Dynamics, a company that creates robots with advanced mobility, dexterity, and intelligence. Pilat first encountered the robot dogs of Boston Dynamics, otherwise known as Spot, when she was commissioned to paint a portrait of these four-legged bionic robots. Known for incorporating technology and futurism into her own work of paintings, it comes as no one’s surprise that Pilat would be enamored by the robot dogs she was tasked to paint a portrait of.
Fast forward to today, Pilat is training three robot dogs to be equipped to paint for four months by themselves using sticks of oil paint to an acrylic ground canvas that will be attached to a wall. While the robot dogs are already programmed with multiple advanced functions and features, Pilat is training her three robot dog painters named Basia, Bonnie, and Archie to be able to under a range of commands specific to painting.
This includes being able to hold down a paintbrush enough to press it as hard or light on the canvas, paint a dot or a line, or paint towards any direction they see fit.
Currently, Pilat has programmed her three robot dogs to execute childlike paintings as she herself sees her robot dogs as “young children in human years, who know a lot, but understand very little”. Pilat also regards the robot dogs as “playful” and “partners of humanity” — descriptions that may not be true to some members of society who find these robots “creepy” and “dystopian”.
Hopefully, the works of Pilat and her three robot dogs can change such notions. “I am (a) techno-optimist — I like to say that I do for the machine what Diego Rivera did for the working class. And when people meet Spot in person, the vast majority fall in love very fast — it’s hard not to be charmed by them because they’re very cute”, says Pilat.
True enough, it looks like more sectors of the art and fashion society are seeing the charms of these robot dogs as they also recently graced the runway. One cannot help but be in awe of just how quickly robot dogs are being embedded in our society outside the fields of military and security.