Little Sunfish — Experimenta

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Michael Candy
Little Sunfish

Yugambeh Country
Burleigh Heads, QLD, Australia


In Little Sunfish the artist has created a speculative story about an underwater robot that escapes its human masters to roam the Pacific Ocean. The film begins at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power plant where the robot is searching for radioactive debris after the nuclear accident triggered by flooding as a result of the 2011 Tohoku tsunami in Japan. The work is an imaginative leap from real life events, inspired by the ways that Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) have used robots to investigate damage inside the Fukushima Daiichi reactors.

Little Sunfish taps into a long history of robotic representation in popular culture and the narrative trope where robots develop their own agency. Typically, this leads to the robot turning against their masters such as in R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots), an internationally successful Czech play written by Karel Capek in 1920 that introduced the word ‘robot’ to the English language. Candy’s video takes a more nuanced approach as here the robot is seen exploring the world, keen for new experiences beyond its human-built purpose, but inadvertently spreading radioactive material along its way and placing the very world it seeks to discover at risk.

Alongside this video work is a fully functioning scale replica, fabricated by the artist, of the original Toshiba built ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle) robot that is featured in the video. Engineering and construction processes required to build robots and kinetic sculptures are central to Candy’s artistic practice. The robot is presented in a glass display case reminiscent of the types of display techniques found in natural history museums. This asks us to consider the implications of a future where there is robotic sentience and whether we will accept, reject or subjugate the life forms that we create.

The artist acknowledges the support from: HOTA CreativeDevelopment Fund; QAGOMA Commission.

The Artist
Michael Candy

Michael Candy works with a vocabulary of robotics, hardware hacking, intervention and video. This didactic practice seeks to mediate the liminal realm that technology oppresses on the physical world.