Robots play an ever-expanding role in our society. Their lack of ability to have opinions or their own thoughts outside of the ones we program them to have*, fascinates me. The sole purpose and ability of The Viewer** is to give people attention. Do we feel excited by the robot’s attention? Or jealous when it focuses it’s attention on someone else?
The work itself looks at the viewer’s face and tries not only to show attention to the viewer of the work, but simultaneously address attention in itself. The philosopher Descartes refers in his famous phrase “I think, therefore I am” to the idea that we cannot prove that anything exists unless we are simultaneously experiencing it by hearing, touching, or seeing for example. In other words: nothing can exist unless we show it attention and only in that very moment.
The means of human communication have evolved rapidly in recent years. People are increasingly communicating using electronic devices and at the same time reducing physical communication, talking face to face. Since The Viewer is some sort of an electronic body, it can be put in both the roles of electronic and physical communication in this context. The Viewer offers us intimacy, just as it offers us distance. This superposition between roles can also be found between The Viewer and the viewer. When a person and an artwork show each other attention the role of the artist, artwork and the viewer becomes unclear. Is attention something that a machine can give?
Móki (Jóhann Ingi Skúlason) has through his work been investigating human behaviour and it's relationship to technology. He looks at how technology has become part of humans through its direct or indirect role in almost everything that people do today.
*At least not yet.
**The viewer is a final work shown in Kjarvalsstaðir, it is some sort of a mechanical arm. Though not an arm like humans regularly have, but more something that resembles a crane. The Viewer can stretch in all directions, and with help from a camera and depth sensors, it looks for human faces. The Viewer stretches towards a human face when it finds one and observes it for a while. After observing a face, The Viewer moves on trying to find another face to look at and so on.
[The work was done in collaboration with Gunnlaugur Kristinn Hreiðarsson, computer scientist, Þórður Hans Baldursson, software engineer, and Þórður Jónsson, a soon-to-be machine engineer graduate.]