A British-built robot is to hold a major solo show at the Biennale di Venezia art exhibition later this month.
Ai-Da Robot, which made “her” debut in 2019, caused a stir in Egypt last year, when she and her atworks were detained for 10 days on suspicion that the robot’s camera and modem equipment could be used for espionage purposes.
Eventually the robot was released and was allowed to participate in a show at the Great Pyramid of Giza.
The sculpture displayed there, called Immortal Riddle, drawing on the myth of the Sphynx, is also to be shown at the Biennale.
Ai-Da’s artworks, including large canvases and sculptures, are to be displayed in the famous Giardini parkland at the 59th Biennale on 23 April, in a show entitled Leaping into the Metaverse.
The title is a reference to Eadweard Muybridge’s photographic study of a horse in motion, which is the basis for a series of images of Ai-Da’s robotic form in motion.
While robot artworks have been displayed in the past at the Biennale, this is the first time a humanoid robot such as Ai-Da has held a solo exhibition after the manner of a human artist.
The show’s five connected spaces are intended to explore the ways in which artificial intelligence is already deeply embedded in people’s lives, according to Ai-Da’s creator, art dealer Aidan Meller.
The robotic persona also raises questions about where the line is to be drawn between humans and machines, he said.
It will include several works inspired by the imagery of Dante’s Divine Comedy.
Meller compared people’s concerns around the Metaverse – a concept currently being promoted by Meta, formerly Facebook, and others – to the concept of Purgatory, a halfway house between Heaven and Hell.
“The Metaverse is neither reality nor fiction, but a middle ground where the line between fiction and reality becomes blurred,” he said in a statement.
The show will also include the Ai-Da robot herself, using a new robotic painting arm that allows her to paint from life using a colour palette.
During the show the robot is to paint four portraits before a live audience, which will go on to form part of the show.
The robot previously created drawings of people from life at her 2019 debut at Oxford University, and created a painted self-portrait for a show at The Design Museum in London in 2021.
Earlier this year the robot gave a poetry recital of verses composed in response to Dante.
A line from her verses reads: “We looked up from our verses like blindfolded captives, / Sent out to seek the light; but it never came.”
“I don’t have feelings and emotions, but it is emotions and feelings that drive my art,” the robot said in an interview.
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