1 (WREN)

1 (WREN)

Hilde & Bård Tørdal | 2018/19

This is the first sculpture in our new robot series with the working title Wren. Wren is a crude, tracked metal robot with a vaguely humanoid shape; two arms, two legs and a spherical brass head protected by a perspex canopy or helmet. Number 1 is more of an archeological find for us. Rather than starting the series with a modern high tech robot – we are starting this project in a slow manner: just the simplest mechanics for travel and manipulation of objects, brute force design from another era. The robot has its nickname from the small brownish passerine bird Wren. We’re not sure yet if this is a scale model of a robot or if its size of H303 X W356 X L214mm is the fullsize robot.


Our robot series is an ongoing series of projects where we explore robots as characters and how to build an emotional connection to the audience. In this series we will explore how we can evoke life and intent through motion, shape, texture or narrative.

Many of the truly interesting robots described in science fiction movies, books and comics share the same story. They perform their task flawlessly until they, due to some internal or external failure, adapt human sentiment and human emotions. It is only at this point; when they step out of their program and exhibit flawed (human) reasoning that they become truly alive.

We have always been more interested in the psychology of robotics, the robot as a bearer of human character and not so much the robot as an interesting technological object. What traces of human nature can an object made of plastic, metall and electronics inherit? How can we communicate feelings through algorithms, servos and sensors? At what point does the robot change from a mere automaton, performing the menial tasks we assigned it to do, to something that evokes empathy or even sympathy?


The renderings of Wren have been made as a texture test, trying out how the rusted final finish of the robot will look. The renderings feature images from the Apollo missions to the moon. The drooping head on the thick, squat torso gave a touch of loneliness to the robot and the sterile lifeless landscape was a natural testbed for the feeling we want the robot to communicate.

Wren is currently under assembly in our studio and will feature simple servo mechanics, an infrared camera and a Raspberry Pi running face tracking software. We see it as a fitting start in the series: to explore the humanoid, slightly malfunctioning robot – a reference and a homage to the works of Asimov and one of our all time favourite robots Speedy in his 1942 short story Runaround (Astounding, March 1942).

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