Bronze Award

5 Robots Named Paul

Patrick Tresset

United Kingdom

In a scene reminiscent of a life drawing class, 5 robots named Paul await the human sitter. When the subject arrives he is invited to sit in an armchair, an assistant pins sheets of paper onto the robots and wakes each one up. Immediately the robots look at the sitter and start to draw, their gazes alternating between the drawing in progress and the posing human.

As the model in a life drawing class, the sitter is an object of study. Immobile, yet active in keeping the pose, the human is there to inspire the machines. For the audience he is only one of the 6 silent actors of a short theatrical event. The sounds produced by the robot’s motors create an improvised soundtrack. The robots, stylised minimal obsessive artists, are only capable of drawing. Each look alike except for their eyes, either obsolete digital cameras, or webcams. Their bodies are old school desks on which the drawing paper is pinned. Their left arms, bolted on the desks and holding black biros, are only able to draw. During the exhibition day after day the drawings progressively cover the gallery’s walls.

Paul’s behaviours are based on research into the cognitive, perceptual and motor processes involved when artists draw from life, and also by the author’s drawing practice. The software driving Paul written, by Tresset is implemented using research from robotics, computer vision and computational creativity. Even if the way Paul draws is based on Tresset’s own technique, its style is not a pastiche but rather an interpretation influenced by the robot’s characteristics.