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”The Blind Robot” by LP Demers (2012). Photo courtesy of LP Demers

Experimenta Social (Distancing) #39:
Art & Robotics

Wed 21 Oct 2020, 2PM – 3PM

The fourth industrial revolution is upon us: the increasing uptake of robotics and AI in many parts of our life. In some cases robots are replacing the work of humans but in others researchers are exploring ways that they complement and enhance our diurnal existence.

In the last Experimenta Social event of the year, we will hear from two artists who are ahead of this transformational curve having worked with robotics and AI in their artistic practices for many decades. Art is about communicating ideas, and these artists do groundbreaking work in the social robotics field; a branch of robotics research that emerged in the 1990’s and focuses on robotic systems that explicitly engage on a social level.

Through their interdisciplinary practice, Louis-Philippe Demers and Mari Velonaki bring a deep questioning approach to the rapid technological changes we are experiencing. Join us as we discuss robots as art – the promise and pitfalls of a world driven by robotics and AI.

The Experimenta Social series moves to a live online platform and continues to provide proximity to some of Australia’s most adventurous contemporary artists, researchers and creative technologists. Make sure you RSVP to receive information on how to watch online.

About the Speakers


Louis-Philippe Demers has worked on the conception and production of several large-scale interactive robotic installations, so far realizing more than 375 machines. His robotics works could be found in theatre, opera, subway stations, art museums, science museums, music events and trade shows. He also conceives and realizes interactive environments exhibited and used in museums, festivals, corporate events and public spaces. Since 1988, he participated in more than seventy artistic and stage productions.
His works have been honoured with several prizes and featured at major international festivals and venues such as Theatre de la Ville, Lille 2004, Expo 1992, Expo 2000, Sonambiente, ISEA, SIGGRAPH and Sonar. He received six mentions and a distinction at the prestigious Prix Ars Electronica, the prize for Interactive Lighting at Lightforms 98, jury selections at the Japan Media Art Festival 2010 and 2014, the first prize of artificial life Vida 2.0 and special mentions at Vida 12.0 and 15.0. Devolution, received seven prizes including the Ruby Innovation award in South Australia, Outstanding Performance from Australian Dance Awards and two Helpmann Awards for Best New Show and Best Lighting Design. Demers have been awarded a New Chapter Grant from the Canada Council for the Arts, an exceptional award to celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary.

He combines post-graduate studies in computer science, education in media arts and stage/lighting design for the theatre. Demers recently completed a practice based Ph.D. surrounding issues about machines as performers. This transdisciplinar thesis ranges across Artificial Intelligence, Performance Theory, Biological Perception, Psychology of HCI/HRI and Social Robotics.
Louis- Philippe Demers academic career spans over two decades. He was a Full Professor of Digital Media and Exhibit Design at the Hochschule fuer Gestaltung Karlsruhe, the academic institution affiliated to the world renowned ZKM (Zentrum fuer Kunst und Medientechnologie). He was Professor of Creative Innovation and Director of the Creative Lab at the School of Creative Practice of the Queensland University of Technology. Demers also holds visiting professorships at the University of the Arts London and in the past, at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing and at the Universität für angewandte Kunst Wien. Demers is currently a tenured Associate Professor at the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) School of Art, Design and Media (ADM) . At NTU, he was Principal Investigator at the Interaction and Entertainment Research Centre (IERC) and also ADM’s Associate Chair Research in 2008/09.

Vision: To innovate by designing technological systems creatively that complement and enhance the human experience.
Mari Velonaki’s research is situated in the multi-disciplinary field of Social Robotics. Her approach to Social Robotics has been strongly informed by aesthetics and design principles that stem from the theory and practice of Interactive Media Art. Velonaki has made significant contributions in the areas of Robotics, Media Art and Human-Machine Interface Design. She holds a PhD in Experimental Interface Design (UNSW 2003). Velonaki began working as a media artist/researcher in the field of responsive environments and interactive interface design in 1997. She pioneered experimental interfaces that incorporate movement, speech, touch, breath, electrostatic charge, artificial vision and robotics, allowing for the development of haptic and immersive relationships between participants and interactive agents. In 2014 she was voted by Robohub – a large robotics community of researchers, educators and business- as one of the world’s 25 women in robotics you need to know about.
She is the recipient of several competitive grants, including Australia Research Council Discovery, Linkage, LIEF an ARC Fellowship, an Australia Council of the Arts Visual Arts Fellowship, NICTA, Australia-Japan Foundation, Fuji Xerox Innovation.
Velonaki is a Professor of Social Robotics at the University of New South Wales. She is the founder and director of the Creative Robotics Lab (Art & Design UNSW) and the founder and director of the National Facility for Human Robot Interaction Research (UNSW, USYD, UTS, St Vincent’s Hospital). Mari is a Research Leader at the UNSW Ageing Futures Institute.
Mari’s robots and interactive installations have been exhibited in multiple museums worldwide, including: Victoria & Albert Museum, London; National Art Museum Beijing; Gyeonggi Museum of Modern Art, Korea; Aros Aarhus Museum of Modern Art, Denmark; Wood Street Galleries, Pittsburgh; Millennium Museum – Beijing Biennale of Electronic Arts; Ars Electronica, Linz; European Media Arts Festival, Osnabruck; ZENDAI Museum of Modern Art, Shanghai; Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney, Museum of Contemporary Arts, Sydney; Conde Duque Museum, Madrid; Azkuna Zentroa, Bilbao.