At once archly camp and forbidding, Dr Wade Marynowsky's robots stir up many emotions, says Joanna Lee
What’s so creepy about robots? Through Disney-tinted glasses you could say that they are no more than armoured sidekicks that serve to make our lives better and brighter. But that’s forgetting the chills that a cyborgian, dystopian future sends down our spines. And that pathos is exactly part of that which ‘anti-disciplinary’ artist Wade Marynowsky explores in his extensive body of work (and bodies of robots!) – which is getting its first major solo showcase at NGV Studio. And by showcase we don’t mean impassive objects locked away in glass cabinets, either.
While Marynowsky’s works mostly engaged with ‘new media’ in one way or another, his edge comes from his doctorate in robotic art and the history of robotic practice. Yet his works are as much about flaunting technological finesse as they are about our interactions with the medium that’s so intrinsically embedded within our lives – and whatever feelings they may engender.
And Marynowsky is, intentionally, pushing buttons, so to speak – exploiting our conceptualisation of everything tech through popular sci-fi references (Kubrick and Cronenberg, for example), and then subverting those notions. In this sense, his works depart from the usual trajectory of cyborg-induced humanist crises so frequently seen in technological narratives; Marynowsky is not trying to elicit screams.
“Mainly, I want people to experience robots firsthand rather than seeing them on screen,” he says. “So the importance is that people walk freely and interact. This particular showing of robots won’t be very scary – it’s more about their presence.”
But of course, experiencing robots firsthand and beyond the screen may be, well, somewhat confronting – even if Marynowsky’s robots are more Rosie from The Jetsons than Terminator.
“It’s a reminder of our mortality,” he explains. “It’s power-play, and we don't like to be superseded. But it’s not a threat to humanity to use technology; I think it’s another form of magic in a way. I’m more interested in working with it in a creative form, in a playful, quirky manner.”
Though interactive technological art proves to be a hit with gallery-goers, Marynowsky cites the misconception of its uncollectability within the art world itself as that which impedes it from garnering more respect. But, for him, the medium signals a new era in art – due to its function in connecting people and art, and subsequently breaking down barriers of elitism.
So is the gallery the next amusement park? Well, Wade Marynowsky’s Nostalgia for Obsolete Futures is a good place to find out. Don’t just check it out – play.