Cover Patrick Tresset’s new media art installation comes to Hong Kong this November and features five robots that sketch your portrait in 20 minutes. (Trace exhibition at the New Westminster New Media Gallery 2017 © New Media Gallery)

Coming to Hong Kong this November, French artist Patrick Tresset’s new media art installation features five robots that sketch your portrait in 20 minutes

Just when you think art is human’s privilege, think again. Meet Human Study #1, 5RN, Brussels-based, French artist Patrick Tresset’s latest media art installation which is made up of five robot arms that can simultaneously and instantly sketch a portrait in 20 minutes. After exhibitions in renowned galleries such as London's Tate Modern and the V&A, along with the Mori Museum in Tokyo, Tresset comes to Hong Kong with his robot installation for the first time in Art Unchained, an exhibition presented by Taikoo Place’s ArtisTree. This Hong Kong show is curated by art and tech specialists Joanne Ooi, Lisa Botos and Jean-Luc Gustave.

Ooi, a former art gallerist and creative director of Shanghai Tang, suggests that Hong Kong isn’t too familiar with media art. The city’s art scene is mostly dominated by fine art, including painting, sculpture and other traditional art forms. Yet media art is on the rise. It encompasses a wide range of art forms that make use of technologies such as 3D printing, virtual reality, computer graphics, animation and robotics––the last of which is the case for Tresset’s installation. “Tresset is a seminal exponent of media art. The exhibition of Human Study #1, 5RNP will introduce this giant yet little-known category of art to the local art industry and the general public, opening their eyes to the creative possibilities unleashed by technology,” Ooi says.

Tresset is a painter himself, specialising in human traits and experience. “The technology places me at another level where I’m not drawing directly, but instead dictating the robots’ movement to produce spontaneous drawings,” he says. “It’s a play between losing control and having more control at the same time.”

Yet Tresset reassures that the dystopian sci-fi scenario is far from being a reality, that we won’t be replaced by robots anytime soon. “What’s important in art is the intention, which machines don’t have, nor do they have emotions or characters––we as observers humanise robots based on their behaviours,” he says.

Tresset resets and finetunes the robots’ settings before each show so that each robot has its own distinctive character. An audience member will sit as the subject in each session. Five sketches of the subjects will be produced in different styles.The robots’ sketches will be mounted on Artistree’s walls for viewing. In a sense, the performative installation art is more about the participation of the subject, artist and robot together as one. “You become part of the artwork,” says Botos, former gallerist and cultural producer, who adds that interactive media art has changed the conventional way of viewing art that distances the viewers from the artists.

The exhibition will be companioned by two online forums that discuss the impact of technology on the art industry and how blockchain is reshaping the consumer world. They will be moderated by Angie Lau, tech specialist and founder and CEO of Forkast News.

Art Unchained is shown in Taikoo Place from November 11 to 22, 2020. Click here for more details.

See also: 10 Hong Kong Art Exhibitions To See November In 2020

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