Karina Smigla-Bobinski’s ‘post-digital drawing machine’ ADA is an interactive sculpture that invites engagement with one of the most primal forms of communication – mark making.
However, this enormous floating orb is not simply a drawing tool, but a conceptual artwork situated at the intersection of art and computer science.
Constructed with plastic and gas, ADA’s transparent surface is dotted with sticks of black charcoal. She is analogue, devoid of electronics. As a kinetic sculpture, she can be moved around the white room she inhabits. Over many days, dense stories accumulate, as each human interaction leaves marks on the walls and floor.
To use Karina’s own analogy, ADA is like software. She responds to visitors’ input, then elicits further response and creative generation, impacting the development of the next phase of input. People may try but, according to Karina, ADA ‘cannot be controlled’. This highlights how the work draws out intuitive, physical responses, evoking a deeper somatic experience and learning.
ADA is a novel experience for all who enter her domain. Interaction requires participation through experimentation, a scientific approach where a hypothesis is tested and learning achieved. Perhaps this is why ADA has evoked many organic creative responses, inspiring artistic exchange and parallel discussions across disciplines, meshing scientific and artistic enquiry.
For example, during ADA’s decade-long existence, dancers have responded with spontaneity, generating new performances. Sound artists have reflected on her acoustic resonance and produced innovative compositions. Motivated by ADA’s potential as a creative catalyst, Smigla-Bobinski has engaged with a growing network of scientists. Through this dialogue, visual similarities in molecular structures, neural and in-organic networks captivate these conversations.
Additionally, Karina’s interest in computing science is a conceptual foundation of the work. ADA’s namesake, the visionary 19th century writer and mathematician Ada Lovelace, collaborated with Charles Babbage on his Analytical Engine, the first prototype computer. Babbage employed new technologies, including a revelation of the industrial revolution, the Jacquard Loom, which enabled automation of mechanical pattern production. Lovelace worked with Babbage on an early form of general computing, utilising punched loom cards to convey algorithmic data and programming. Lovelace is credited as the first computer programmer.
Their research led to meditations on relationships between man and technology. Lovelace theorised a machine that could create music, art and poetry, just like an artist. This proposition still holds resonance with today’s technologies, as the complex frontier of artificial intelligence and machine learning is increasingly normalised. ADA is aptly named, the anthropomorphism has us questioning consciousness and intent as we experiment.
Aesthetically, ADA appears highly futuristic. Initially her environment is a pristine blank slate, but becomes densely layered with creative response and exchange. Each black mark is data, a visual record of interaction, movements, human bodies and time passed. There is potential to consider the allegory of use, aging and degradation.
Here in Brisbane, ADA sits next to the river, Maiwar and adjacent to the CBD and a skyscape that symbolises modern and affluent civilisation. The surrounding architecture and environment inform a layered spatial conversation. ADA’s semi-transparent walls allow transference of built infrastructure and histories of human presence in this environment. We can consider allegorical meanings to long human marks on this site and ponder what may come to pass in the future.
About the Creator
Karina Smigla-Bobinski is an internationally recognised multi-disciplinary artist who works with digital and analogue media to create interactive art. Her works regularly integrate physicality and the participation of the viewer, to creatively explore proprioception – the sensory awareness we have of our body in space, as well as perceptions of force and pressure.
Her themes move between science, intuition, expression and cognition. Making and materiality are essential to her process-driven projects, and have been explored through painting, kinetic sculptures, interactive installations, multimedia, physical theatre performances and many collaborations.
Karina’s artistic research involves scientific enquiry, and theoretical work on the interplay between society and technology. As Visiting Research Fellow and Artist in Residence at ZiF Center for Interdisciplinary Research at Bielefeld University’s Institute for Advanced Study, she worked with scientists, philosophers, art historians and legal scholars on the ethics of copying and genetic and social causes of life chances.
Karina’s works have been shown in 53 countries on 6 continents at festivals, galleries and museums. This exhibition with World Science Festival Brisbane, is her debut in Australia. Her acclaimed work ADA has been exhibited at venues including New Taipei City Art Museum (Taiwan), Chroniques Biennale in Aix-en-Provence (France), Ming Contemporary Art Museum in Shanghai (China), Ithra – King Abdulaziz Centre for World Culture / Dhahran (Saudi Arabia), IPARK Museum of Art in Suwon (Korea), GARAGE Centre for Contemporary Culture in Moscow (Russia), ZERO1 Biennial in Silicon Valley (USA), Muffathalle in Munich (Germany).
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