Random International presents No One Is An Island at Frieze London 2021
Oct. 19, 2021
Kinetic energies power ‘No One Is An Island’ – a gesamtkunstwerk of artificial intelligence, contemporary dance and theatrical scores of music – on public show for the first time during Frieze London 2021. Fuelled by science, the performance is a future-oriented reflection on how the human mind empathises with AI. The sculptural robot centrepiece, created by random international, evokes a feeling of likeness from the audience that is accentuated with movements from dancers of company Wayne McGregor.
‘Human beings are imperfect, even the top performers. It is interesting to work with something [the robot] that is so precise. It explores what it is to be living,’ explained Wayne McGregor to designboom at a special preview of the performance in 2020. since then, ‘No One Is An Island’ has been refined for over a year ahead of its public performances at Frieze London 2021. Firstly, the artists and partners – BMW i, Studio Wayne McGregor, Random International and Superblue – needed to understand the possibilities of the robot before then exploring how to accentuate empathy. This is all moved by questions about how future generations will interact with automated and digitised processes and environments.
The sculptural robot centrepiece of the performance, known as fifteen points / ii, was created by Random International. It sits atop two parallel rails with numerous spindles of arms spidering out of its bodies. These limbs are fitted with bulbs of lighting to illuminate its tips as well as flow of movement. The design experiments with the minimal amount of information necessary for an animated form to be recognised as human.
The sculpture – or instrument as Studio Wayne McGregor describes it – transitions from a robot to human likeness. Dancers from the choreographer’s eponymous company interact with the machine in a live, kinetic performance. Energy appears to flow between the performers. the machine’s limbs form the outline of a human shape, mirroring the dancers, learning the freedom of movement, before finally achieving the most human trait of all – the two-legged walk. The audience sees this evolution to build a relationship and empathy with the machine.
The dancers’ interventions are retranslated with a score by Chihei Hatakeyama, through the 12-minute performance of ‘no one is an island’. The audience witnesses the machine not only come alive but become human. The gesamtkunstwerk normalizes human interaction with AI for the future.