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by Eva Sutton and Sarah Hart

Only humans are inspired to create. Aesthetic expression is the action triggered by this inspiration. Art is its result, the special product of a divine process. Machines are neither human nor divine. But ironically, the markings which are made by the machine's activity very much resemble the art of human artists. A contradiction results.

The Sumi-ebot project also underscores a phenomenon which increasingly pervades the artmaking process and contemporary culture at this time in history; namely the phenomenon of technology functioning both as mediator and separator between the artist and the work. No longer manifesting itself through the immediacy of physical gesture made by the artist, contemporary work often utilizes a great deal of complex technology, thereby creating a wide gap between the artist and the expression itself. The sumi-ebot project widens this gap to the extreme, allowing the technology to function as an autonomous entity in making art. The bot is the creator; a proxy artist, no longer requiring the presence of a human.

The sumi-ebot does not simply repeat a preset pattern over and over. Every painting generated conforms to the sumi-ebot's style, but is unique. The style of painting is reminiscient of a Zen painter making a spontaneous mark with one continuous gesture of the sumi-e brush.

Sumi-ebots can perform as single artbots or as a group. In the case of group "collaborations", each sumi-ebot communicates with the next via infrared transmission. Once the bot has finished its mark, it signals the next bot to begin. Thus a chain of sumi-e bots can sequentially paint marks along a scroll, in the tradition of Japanese brush painting. Sumi-e bots are also equipped with edge-detection capabilities via a light sensor which signals the demarkated edges of the scroll, preventing sumi-ebots from painting outside of the paper surface.

Eva Sutton is an artist and programmer living in New York. Her current work explores the boundary between static images and interactive databases; in which users change the visual state of the system without interrupting the "realistic" continuity of a "whole" image. Her interactive print "Hybrids" was featured in "Paradise Now" which explored artists' responses to current issues in genetic engineering. Eva has had a previous life as a software engineer working primarily in the fields of biotechnology and large-scale database management, and later as a senior network administrator at the School of Visual Arts in New York. Her work has been featured at Aperture, SIGGRAPH, ;the National Center of Photography in Paris, and the on-line sites Digital Imaging Forum (www.art.uh.edu/dif), www.genomicart.org and www.pbs.org. She has lectured on issues in art and technology at Princeton, New York University, The Cooper Union, and the Hong Kong Center for the Arts. Currently, Eva is an associate professor at the Rhode Island School of Design where she has developed the curriculum in digital media and is designing a digital media graduate program.

Sarah Hart, Director of the International Certificate Program of New Media at Rhode Island School of Design, has been working with electronic imaging technologies since the mid 1980s. After completing her MFA at CalArts she taught at Hampshire College and Rhode Island School of Design. She received a Lila Wallace Grant to complete photographic and electronic imaging projects in Russia where she was an Artist in Residence at the Moscow Center of Contemporry Art. During the past several years her work has focused on an exploration of the interface between the real and virtual in web based projects and the field of robotics. Hart's work has been exhibited internationally and is included in numerous collections.

thanks and credits:

The sumi-ebot project was originally developed in the context of the "Interactive Spaces" Class at the Rhode Island School of Design.


Eva Sutton
Sarah Hart
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