New Now Festival

Spare Pack

New Now Festival
Date: 1.6—6.8.23
Institution: Zollverein Essen
Location: Essen, DE

© Photo: Dirk Rose

Kindly supported by Pro Helvetia.

New Now Festival
Artist in Residency Video
Spare Pack

We live in a time of hypernature. Technical knowledge and organic life are merging in new ways. Boundaries between reality and simulation are blurring. New dependencies and symbioses are appearing. Nature itself becoming art. Over a period of nine weeks, the exhibition "Hypernatural Forces" will show artistic positions around the theme of hypernature in the Mixing Plant from the 1st of June till the 6th of August 2023.

Visitors enter the territory of a roaming robot pack. Listen to the beguiling song of invasive plants. Or wander through deserted landscapes of electronic waste and organic fiction. At Zollverein, they can experience how artificial intelligence (re-)interprets the site — once the largest colliery in the world — and generates new worlds from it. 


Robot dogs have moved into the Mixing Plant. They occupy and explore the disused industrial complex. It is now their territory, but what task they are pursuing there remains unclear. Much like a pack of wolves, coyotes or hyenas, the robots roam, interact and play with their environment. The robot dogs do not look organic even though their movements closely resemble those of living creatures. A pack of mechanical beasts, capable of gentleness and moments of togetherness with the visitors, creates a complex dialogue between animal, machine and human.

Robot dogs have long since moved into industrial sites across the globe, walking and patrolling areas considered inappropriate for humans. They are important helpers, yet it won’t be long before they are deemed technically obsolete and entire groups will find themselves aimlessly roaming deserted spaces. These groups will form packs, becoming ‘spare packs’ of wild robot dogs, into whose territory humans will only occasionally intrude.

Industrial neglect inevitably leads to catastrophic results. The constant care and maintenance required to keep engines running, driving consumption to ever-new heights, is a careful balancing act. Here, spare parts are the buffers that can quickly absorb production shocks and reduce downtime. Robotic systems are powering more and more of our industrial infrastructures, with whole fleets of spare robots standing by, idle, waiting to be put into action. Unless, of course, they meet a different fate.

“Spare Pack” creates a moment based only on intuition and body language. It is a return to the primitive state, to our basic instincts, a dialogue that plays on survival as we face the technological objects that will roam the prairies of tomorrow.