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Giant floating robots and millennial smells make up a new facility at the Tate Modern



Written by Aimee DawsonLondon, United Kingdom

This article was originally published by The Art Newspaper, editorial partner of CNN Style.

Two species of intelligent robots have moved to some major real estate on the Thames side: the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern. Collectively called “aerobes”, the floating spheres that New York artist Anicka Yi has created to inhabit the cavernous space are called “planulae” (hairy, bulbous) and “xenojellies” (those with patterned tentacles). They constitute the installation “Anicka Yi: In Love with the World”, which opened this week.

Inspired by ocean life forms and mushrooms, helium-filled forms move through rotors and a small battery. Together they create an “ecosystem” within the museum, Yi said in a press release, interacting with its environment and visitors and displaying individual and group behaviors.

Artist Anicka Yi Credit: Picture of Ben Fisher / Tate Modern

Behind the scenes, an incredible amount of technology and artificial intelligence research is driving this floating family. A team of specialists has developed the aerial vehicles using software that provides each one with a unique flight path. The software, called the artificial life program, generates a wide range of travel options that orbs can adopt and therefore simulates the somewhat unpredictable processes of natural life. This type of technology is commonly used in scientific studies, but has also been used to create realistic visual effects and animations.

Robots will respond to space and the people around them by receiving information from electronic sensors located around the enclosure. The signals affect them individually and in groups, so they will behave differently in each encounter.

“Like the dance of a bee or the trail of the smell of an ant, aerobes communicate with each other in ways we cannot understand,” a Tate Modern statement described.

Installation view of "Anicka Yi: In love with the world" at the Tate Modern, London.

Installation view of “Anicka Yi: In Love with the World” at the Tate Modern, London. Credit: Sonal Bakrania / Tate Modern

In addition to returning machines – certainly of all kinds – to the empty stomach of Turbine Hall, the heart of Bankside’s former power plant, Yi also uses his aerobics to question ideas about intelligence and our focus on the brain. as the main transmitter.

“Most AI works like a mind without a body, but living organisms learn a lot about the world through the senses,” he said. “The knowledge that emerges from being a body in the world, related to other creatures and environments, is called physical intelligence. What if AI could learn through the senses? Could machines develop their own experiences of the world? Could they?” to become independent of humans? Could they exchange intelligence with plants, animals and microorganisms? “

Installation view of "Anicka Yi: In love with the world" at the Tate Modern, London.

Installation view of “Anicka Yi: In Love with the World” at the Tate Modern, London. Credit: Will Burrard-Lucas / Tate Modern

The other element of Yi’s work is the use of smell: the artist has “sculpted” the air creating what she describes as “olfactory landscapes”. A combination of odors emitted into space will change over the weeks of the commission, as will the behavior of resident robots. Yi has selected scents inspired by the history of the Bankside area surrounding the Modern Tate. These include marine odors from the Precambrian period (the first in Earth’s history), vegetation odors from the Cretaceous period (about 145 million to 66 million years ago), the odors of spices that were used with hope. of counteracting the Black Death in the fourteenth century, and the smell of coal and ozone of the Industrial Revolution.

The aromas are meant to remind visitors of our connection to our environment and to others. “Yi is interested in air politics and how this is affected by changing attitudes, inequalities and ecological awareness,” the museum statement says. “The space is not empty, but full of air that we all share and on which we depend.”

“Yi’s facilities are unforgettable, using the latest scientific ideas and experimental materials in unexpected ways,” Frances Morris, the director of Tate Modern, said in a press release. “The results not only involve the senses, but also address some of the big questions we face today about humanity’s relationship to nature and technology.”

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