A thesis paper presented to OCAD University in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Contemporary Art, Design and New Media Art Histories, 2016.
This thesis examines issues related to agency, playfulness, and behavioral design in robotic art. Using the term ‘whimsical bodies’ (inspired by artist Steve Daniels’, Whimsy, 2008) as an evocative metaphor for the playful ecology and creations of robotic art, I take up historical and contemporary case studies as entry points to a multi-faceted discussion of human-machine engagements through the lenses of philosophical, art historical and curatorial methodological research. Robotic art’s whimsical bodies are also explored through references to new media scholarship, object-oriented-philosophy, metaphysics and speculative theory. In assessing characteristic features of the art form, such as its playfulness, use of humor, and critique/reconfiguration of wonder as a mode of critical engagement, this thesis aims to move robotic art from the periphery to the center of new media art as a lively and unique field of research.
Ultimately, “Whimsical Bodies” reimagines and reanimates cybernetic objects as they break from their role as passive recipients of traditional modes of museum/gallery spectatorship by providing insights into their hidden lives and potential.