Bot 05, 2019

Text by Sylvia Martin

The boudoir in Villa Esters is in actual fact empty. Only the rug on the floor with its black-and-white pattern reminds the viewer that living people once inhabited this house. The abstract pattern has something unusual about it, appearing like an encrypted shadow world produced in the tradition of weaving. The carpet pattern is in fact a triggering code, the marker for an augmented reality. An artificial person appears on the display when one takes the tablet from the windowsill and directs the viewfinder at the rug. This avatar — more male than female and small in stature — moves about in space on the carpet carrying out actions that seem strange or recall everyday activities.

The situation resembles a staged performance, evoking a chamber drama in its closed intimate nature. The virtual individual appears concentrated in his actions and restric ed at the same time in his spatial radius. He is alone in a private domestic environment. The desire for sociability and (open) society is not recognizable. And does this artificial creature have a consciousness in the first place? In the end, it concerns a human machine — a manifestation of the age-old dream of creating an autonomously acting artificial individual that has been realized by the artist duo Banz & Bowinkel with the assistance of up-to-date software. As the title indicates, Bot 05 is the fifth of its kind. Bot stands for a computer program that automatically fulfils tasks according to predetermined overriding rules without any further interventions. The avatar thus carries out a series of predefined activities, which, however, it varies on its own, as it were (by means of a scoring system, an analytical process).

A performance emerges in this way that is continuously re-choreographed from numerous individual units of action. In the process, the play has no beginning or end. The present day human machine as embodied by the avatar stands in a still ambivalent field of tension. On the one hand it fuels the belief in technological progress and a transhumanism that improves the human body through technology. However, the Bot 05 avatar points out that computer-controlled systems — likes, scores, ratings — increasingly shape or dominate everyday life and private havens like one’s own home. By implication, human behavior is ‘programmed’ almost undetected in this way. The chamber drama performed by the avatar on the rug of Haus Esters calls attention to this fine line between utopian and dystopian concepts.