Friday, September 08, 2023


Our Dog Delirium: Crash Gouache on paper 21 x 30 cm 2023

These three new small works on paper channel some of my thoughts about robotic quadrupeds. However, while this is a specific focus, the robotic quadruped is also a visual metaphor to stimulate thinking about other robotic systems and devices.  

I depict the robotic quadrupeds because I've seen them in action at the Australian Army's Landforces expo in Brisbane in 2021 and 2022. While interested in seeing the robots, I was more interested in watching how people reacted to them. So many people responded as if these robots were real dogs. There were smiles, laughs, wriggles to respond to robotic 'wriggling', and lots of selfie photos with the robots. People bent down to look into the robotic 'face', smiling as they did so. The robotic quadrupeds, clearly controlled by remote operators in the expo hall, 'pawed' the ground [actually more like cats!], tilted their head as if inquisitive, wagged their behinds as if they were happy. I am sure there were other neutral or more circumspect responses to the robots, but these were not as obvious.  


I ask - in an era where so much technology is dual-use, how can we form resilient critical perspectives about human - machine interactions when normalising processes cross civilian and military arenas? I ask - how do we not fall into traps where we uncritically think we are in a relationship with a robot? I ask - if a robotic quadruped at a military expo elicits warm and fuzzy human reactions, how does this parlay into integrating human-robot partnering in the armed services? I ask - if a robot is present, for example, at an expo or an art exhibition, what happens to data it may collect via various sensors? What kind of training is provided for robotic developers by seemingly benign interactions with robots brought into places such as expos and galleries? 


Our Dog Delirium: Crash [above] and Verification Error: Identity Crash Site [below] visually 'speak' to a confusion - our confusion between alive and synthetic - what is a dog in the twenty-first century? If we collapse dog and robot into one, or human being and robot into a singularity fantasy, what do we give up in the process? 

Verification Error: Identity Crash Site Gouache on paper 21 x 30 cm 2023

In Our Dog Delirium: Crash I have painted an Australian Kelpie with a robotic quadruped similar to an experiment where a Ghost Robotics quadruped was armed, . In Verification Error: Identity Crash Site [the verification tick on the robot indicates that it is the real dog. In both paintings the shadows cast by both the dog and the robot seem to collide - crash. is the red seeping from the crash site real blood?

Shadow Litter [bottom] is a futuristic image of a figure - is it a human being or a robot - walking a 'litter' of robotic quadrupeds.

I have another post DOGS, QUADRUPEDS AND ROBOTS with more dog - robotic quadruped paintings.  

Needless to say, there is a lot more to say!

Cheers, Kathryn 

If you would like me to present a talk, a seminar or an atelier [workshop] on questions relating to technology, war, dual-use, the future, and more please contact me via the contact form on the right. 

Shadow Litter Gouache on paper 21 x 30 cm 2023


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