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Is Robot Art Art? Interview with C.Aweida

Is Robot Art Art? Interview with C.Aweida

Although I live surrounded by very paintings on canvas and sculptures created in very traditional way, I love exploring the ways how technology is empowering artists to create outstanding, beautiful and really amazing artworks.

Just a few years ago robot art was a novelty, but today, I might say, it is already a trend and a new genre.

However, the discussion about robotic art (as well as digital) continues - can we call it art if it is created by a machine? Is that kind of art able to move us emotionally? Does that mean the world will no longer need artists? etc.

I was wondering around the internet looking for some answers and discovered artist Charles Aweida - a young innovator who creates impressive artworks with the help of machines and algorithms.

Charles calls himself artist & roboticist, exploring the intersection of science, engineering, visual arts and film. He works in a lab in Oakland (California) and researches new ways of leveraging robotics as a creative medium.

I found his work extremely interesting and decided to interview him, so here is our virtual conversation about robotics and art that reveals interesting answers to questions about robot art.


How did you have the idea of using robots in a creative process?

I have always been fascinated with emerging tools and their ability to aid in the creative process. I think this is common place in the architecture community where I previously studied and practiced.

While in Graduate School at Carnegie Mellon University, I had access to an amazing network of robots. Utilising these machines to create fine art has always felt intuitive to me considering that robots have a wondrous ability to bridge the digital and physical worlds.


What kind of objects you create and what techniques do you use?

I produce three-dimensional objects inspired by the natural world, fabricated by robots. Most often, I reproduce elements, rule-systems, and patterns from the natural world in a digital environment by way of physics simulations and generative algorithms.

After reproducing these elements I digitally abstract and simplify them. I then bring them back into the real world through robotics and custom actuated machines.

There's always this loop from the real-world, to the digital world, then back to the real world. 


What was your most ambitious, or most successful project?

My most ambitious project is centred around a cinematic effect produced by stop-motion animation techniques executed by robots.

How it works: the robot places objects on a surface, it then talks to a camera rig which captures a photo of the objects, it then moves the objects to their next location or frame.

When the images or frames are combined it creates a visual effect as if the physical objects are moving and animating. I captured this process in a 5 second clip which is the result of over 40,000 robotic movements and 6 hours of elapsed time.

If you look closely, you can see the sun setting. Once the creative direction is defined this process is fully automated. 


Are your artworks unique, or do you multiply them?

All of my artworks are unique. There are similar aspects/parameters throughout my work, however, I will never produce the same piece more than once.

This is an important aspect to me. In addition, there are too many concepts I am dying to create, there's no need for duplication. 


Do you participate in exhibitions and art fairs?

I am very much in the infancy of my art career. I have spent the last 3 years designing and building the engineering component (which ultimately facilitates the creative component).

That said, I have had a few exhibits in Los Angeles and San Francisco. I have a few completed commissions and am in the process of conceptualising new commissions.

I have not participated in any art fairs but hope to do so at some point. For now, I am hyper focusing on producing the work. 

Have you ever faced an opinion, that things you create are not art, because they lack human touch?

Absolutely. When art is brought up, the common reaction is to think painting, drawing, and sculpting — in the classical sense.

It is sort of what we’ve been trained to think. I think about it a bit differently. If we were to consider sculpting for a moment — a chisel is a tool that allows artists to create whats in their mind.

That tool is an extension of them — it enables them to produce something they couldn't previously produce.

I see robots and other digital tools in the same light — these contemporary tools enable me to produce my works. At one point in time a chisel was a contemporary tool, today we have a myriad of new tools and mediums to explore.

To me this is where it's exciting to be — in this emergent space of exploration.


What do you think about the future — how will technology change art?

I think the future of the art market lies in the hands of the viewers. If artists can leverage technology to captivate viewers, I think the future will be very exciting. 


What kind of project are you working on at the moment?

I think of my work as "seasons". Right now I'm creating "Season 1" which will include a series of works with a process that includes my robotic arm, custom fabricated nails, closed cell high-density foam and a custom engineered vibratory nail feeder.

Season 2 will expand upon the same principles but with new techniques and materials. 

Alongside the production of fine art, I am also experimenting film and cinematography in relation to my work as it is a component of the experience.

This process is also driven by robotic systems and emerging tools. It is this mixture of the visual arts, robotics, engineering and film that I find the most exciting.

Lot's of thanks to Charles for his time answering questions. 

I must say the future of art is really exiting, let's follow it together -  SUBSCRIBE to my blog and follow Charles on Instagram @aweida.