This proposed artwork focuses on the translation of weeds as a cultural concept into robotic action code. Artist-defined algorithms, executed by a two-armed robot, merge culture and technology into tangible outcomes: a series of micro-gardens that can activate narratives, metaphors and materializations for 21st century relationships between nature and technology.
The Algorithmic Gardener: Tales of Future Natures and Code endeavors to create new metaphors for emerging relationships between nature and technology. Our proposed artwork brings together three main components: weeds with their metaphorical intensity and as targets for extermination, soybean plants as a crop rich with agricultural associations and scientific enhancements, but little metaphorical power, and technology in the form of a Taurus humanoid robot. McMullen_Winkler imagine an installation with a minimum of three small-scale experimental gardens: at least one already weeded and growing to a stage of maturation; another in the process of being weeded; and one with plants in an early stage of emergence waiting to be tended. Cumulative video documentation will indicate to viewers what has come before and allow them to anticipate what will come next. Live video will reveal the machinic perspective of the robot, alongside a display of the code running in real time making visible the logic by which the robot acts.
Each garden will represent the visible translation of a cultural concept, that of weeds and by extension cultivated plants, into algorithms - human defined computer code that determines the actions of the robot. McMullen_Winkler are very interested in the possible divergent outcomes of the weeding process - including what might be construed as mistakes and failures - as speculative acts.
McMullen_Winkler have worked on a prototype of this installation with the support of Dr. Juan Wachs (School of Industrial Engineering, Purdue University) and Arjun Narang (graduate student in Purdue's School of Electrical and Computer Engineering) and a Purdue College of Liberal Arts Transdisciplinary and Interdisciplinary Research Grant.
The Algorithmic Gardener (in progress)