Stained Glass

Fleeting Moments of a Bubble

Stained Glass
Date: 18.8—30.11.21
Institution: APS Museum Shanghai
Location: Shanghai, SH

General Organizer: Robin Wong
Curator: Layne Gao
Concept: AATB
Production: APS Museum
Organizers: Art Pioneer Studio and L+Mall
Support: Output

Kindly supported by Pro Helvetia.

Fleeting Moments of a Bubble

APSMUSEUM is pleased to present the fall exhibition Stained Glass. The exhibition, supported by Pro Helvetia Shanghai, Swiss Arts Council, is a dual exhibition of Chinese and Swiss artists, offering further opportunities for international communication and cooperation in art during the the global pandemic period. The exhibition Stained Glass will combine the artworks of the famous Swiss artists group AATB and the renowned Chinese new media artist Hu Jieming, presenting the theme of “Art and Artificial Intelligence” in the form of non-industrial robots, video, photography, and installation. The exhibition explores the possibilities of combining art and technology.

Robots are coming out of factories! As we observe the large dissemination of automation and robotics technologies into mundane life, the question of the coexistence of Men and Machine arises.

The two artworks presented by Swiss-French artist duo AATB playfully engages and questions the future of robotics and human interactions. Soap Opera deals with the unique and fleeting moments of a soap bubble, coming into existence only to pop out seconds later, leading to the saying, Homo Bulla Est, Man is a Bubble. The bubble has been used in the Vanitas as a metaphorical symbol for the short transience of life, represented in numerous paintings with kids blowing bubbles and gazing at them. AATB wishes to bring this metaphor into the 21st century, by going farther and removing entirely the human actor in the act of blowing bubbles. The arm becoming robotic, the movement stays the same and the bubbles keep on popping. This makes it even more mesmerising to watch. As the robot seems to know how to carefully wave the wand in the air to form the thin, fragile enveloppes, it goes on and on, with each movement perfect, but each bubble different, reacting to minute changes in the initial conditions it is formed. The whole situation becomes an entertaining, joyful place to observe and enjoy the fleeting moment, but also to reflect on the deeper qualities and meaning of the bubble, as the bubble blowing robot, the organic and mechanised movement, the physical processes interlinked to produce this event. The digital controls of the robot fighting against the organic nature of the bubble, preventing us from knowing what to expect each time.

In a second work, Handshake, visitors are invited to experience the remote presence of online passers-by from all around the world, taking control of two large hands controlled robotically. Handshake is a platform on which strangers can interact with each other, virtually but also physically. Players are able to interact together, with the robots acting as sort of physical channels to embody their movements and presence with strangers. Can robots help us overcome the perhaps biggest challenge of living in isolation and over physical distance: missing the human touch?

A soft touch, a mesmerizing bubble, all done by robots, seemingly in a monotonous infinite cycle, begs the question: what is left for us to feel out of these enigmatic machines?