The following text is a slightly revised version of my original proposal materials.
WITH OPEN ARMS WE WELCOMED THAT WHICH WOULD DESTROY US
This project is a sculpture of a seated robot deity. Its throne presents its narrative. From a distance it is beautiful and seductive, yet on closer inspection it reveals its true nature. It is not evil; it's a robot. It has its own directives. And like any god, we created it and gave it its power.
The seated deity will be seductive, shiny, beautiful, contrasting with the throne made of darker materials. It will be of indeterminate gender, much like "Tutankhamun with Harpoon". Like the original people of Aristophanes'speech, the robot deity has four arms, four legs, and two faces. The look of the deity is not intended to represent the way anyone might actually build a robot, rather it is intended as a metaphor for the seductiveness, and horror, of modern technologies. The four arms will terminate in a balance of welcoming hands and menacing machines. Likewise, the two faces will display benevolence and lustful malice. In fact the whole piece plays on the interplay between attraction and repulsion. A frieze on the throne will tell the narratives of the deity's ascension, incorporating absurdity and humor. Lighting effects above the deity call attention and reinforce the absurdity. The interior of the base will be open to the playa, allowing the participants to both see and be seen, becoming a living part of the exterior visual narratives when viewed from outside.
The essence of this piece is that we humans have been seduced by, and have willingly welcomed into our lives, a force (or cluster of interrelated forces) which we do not necessarily understand, and which does not necessarily have our best interests at heart.
We fall like dominoes to the promise of “connectedness” that social media enticingly offers, yet social-media users are known to be depressed by the experience, and the algorithms which drive social media vacuum up our personal details and dollars (when they can) voraciously for as-yet unknown purposes. As a species we have enthusiastically embraced the early phases of Artificial Intelligence, even as we are now beginning to understand that these early incarnations will lead inexorably and unstoppably to an Artificial Super Intelligence which might one day decide to wipe us off the planet. Robot evolution continues apace, cheered on by those who see profit, convenience, and even military dominion on the horizon, while a few cautious voices on the sidelines warn of the oncoming end of meaningful work, radically intensified socio-economic inequality, and possibly even enslavement. Sex-bots, eagerly anticipated by certain segments of the male population, and under feverish development by various global entrepreneurs who see a golden opportunity, pose their own special set of problems ranging from oncoming generations of men who cannot relate to human women, to objectification (and worse) of women, to the end of human procreation.
We are at the point in the evolution of these technologies that we are beginning to see some of their dystopian outcomes, yet we somehow cannot muster the appropriate emotional response necessary to lead to meaningful discussion and safeguards. It seems we are so entranced by the promise these technologies offer of appeasing our basest drives that we cannot act. But it really is time to have these discussions.
And what if we don’t act? What if we cannot emplace a universal Asimov-style framework within which to advance these technologies? Is it far-fetched to imagine a society in which we must kneel before the robots and ask for their benevolence? When the robot deity arrives, will it be built by us? Or them? Will it listen to us? Will its directives contradict ours? Will it care?
Since the approval, I've been doing some "3D modeling" to work out some issues of fabrication techniques...
The oversized faces I've been sculpting at KAOS for the last month are the two faces of this figure.
That turns out to have been time well-spent. (Thanks Christina!)
I am in the process of nailing down exactly where this will be built. Talk about working outside your comfort zone!
I am grateful to Burning Man, I am excited, and I imagine I might soon be feeling overwhelmed...
But hey, art is the proper task of life.