Who wants a colossal best friend who also happens to be a robot? Michael Salter does.
Associate professor of digital arts and new media at the University of Oregon, Salter proves this, literally, in his latest project coming to the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs' Gallery of Contemporary Art. Gallery director Daisy McConnell refers to styrobot: something comes from nothing as a "project" because of its multifaceted approach. It's an: installation, sculpture, found-art piece, post-humanist revolutionary statement on consumerism and wastefulness, pop art item ... the list goes on.
That's a lot of weight for something made from polystyrene packing foam and Gorilla Glue, but this isn't just any mammoth robot: It's also one meditating in the lotus position. Salter says he had the idea because of his love of science fiction and the perfectly symmetrical square gallery.
"I like the irony of a Frankenstein creature that is misunderstood and protective," he says.
And there's nothing more unnatural than his chosen material, which was collected from the community. McConnell says she wanted to display this work from Salter, who also was part of last year's SUBURBIA show at GOCA, because of how it highlights the waste that invisibly fills the cracks in our society of consumerism, with all its out-of-sight-out-of-mind irresponsibility. (GOCA will recycle the robot after the show.)
As for the robot's own high-level thoughts? "It's meditating about nothing," Salter says. "Literally nothing. The absence of thought, the abyss. I imagine in my mind that it has a character and persona and its own consciousness."
Although he's been building robots for more than 10 years, and each creation is unique (like the one pictured), it wasn't until three years ago that Salter says his creations began to have a real character of their own. "This is the first time I've really acknowledged this and really gone with it," he says. "Now I am starting to really get inside the head of the robot. I usually try to keep a distance between me and the robots, but I'm using this intensely in a meditative sense. I'm not necessarily pro-meditation. I have my idea of it and I like the idea of it. It makes me feel refreshed and open and calm and genuine and authentic.
"I want people to know that a robot is meditating and that it can evolve and choose meditation. Not to require it, but to choose it."