Bem-vindo / adeus / bem-vindo / adeus, installation-performance, 2011. Commissioned for Redundància: the usefulness of repetition, an outdoor exhibition curated by R2 for the EXD’11 biannual, Lisbon, 30 September–27 November 2011.
This piece is what we call an “automated performance” for the people around the Placa da Figueira. Two automatons were put to work of greeting and parting people, mechanically waving the messages “Bem-Vindo” (welcome) and “Adeus” (good-bye). The automatons, so-called “signaling robots,” are used in Korea and perhaps elsewhere to control traffics. Typically, one will be dressed like a construction worker and installed on a motorway, waving a light-up stick in order to alert the drivers to a construction site or a temporary closure. As far as we know, the system was introduced quite recently in Korea: the same tedious, repetitive and potentially dangerous communicative tasks would be – and in some cases still are – performed by human workers or more abstract, temporary traffic signs.
It’s interesting to notice how these robots, often with a eerie smile on their faces, try not to alienate human drivers. Indeed, sometimes their presence can feel uncanny: especially when you see those that are mistakenly left alone or abandoned, yet somehow manage to continue their automatized waving movements.
The signaling robots are meant to substitute humans in performing important but repetitive tasks, allowing us to focus on more “creative” work. What if we take them out of the intended context, thus rendering their presence itself “redundant,” and put them in a new context – that is, the site of ‘creative’ urban intervention as part of a major design biennale?
The two automatons symbolically represent the two of us, Sulki Choi and Min Choi, practically replacing our presence on street. The garments were designed to better reflect who we are – graphic designers. We created urban-designerly camouflage patterns using Mac Paint Infinite Fill Patters. MacPaint was a bitmap-based graphics painting software program released with the original Macintosh computer in 1984. Because the Mac then couldn’t display colors, the patterns were used to express tonality. Just like the signaling robots were devised to free humans of tedious, repetitive work, the Infinite Fill Patterns freed us of the infinite work of editing graphics pixel-by-pixel.