Robot Actors, Robot Dramaturgies

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This paper considers the use of tele-operated robots in live performance. Robots and performance have long been linked, from the working androids and automata staged in popular exhibitions during the nineteenth century and the robots featured at Cybernetic Serendipity (1968) and the World Expo in Osaka (1970). As performances, these exhibitions reflect then state-of-the-art for engineering and computer science and fueled popular imaginings concerning the actual capabilities of those technologies. Art historian Tom Gunning suggests that the relationship between technological and cultural discourse shapes how we perceive and use technology and also points to the ways in which emerging technologies “refashion our experience of space, time and human being filter through our art works, dreams and fantasies.” This paper considers a survey of robot dramaturgies to demonstrate how performance both shapes and reinforces popular awareness and misconceptions of robots. Flyvende Grise’s The Future (2013), Amit Drori’s Savanna (2010), Global Creatures’ King Kong (2013) and Louis Philip Demers’ Blind Robot (2013) each utilize tele-operated robots across a wide range of human and animal morphologies—from greasy industrial machines to a lifelike, six-meter tall gorilla. The performances are authentic sites of human-robot interaction staged in fictional landscapes that exaggerate or mask the capabilities of those technologies.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date20 Nov 2014
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 20 Nov 2014
EventAmerican Society for Theatre Research : How Mediated, Robotic and ‘Virtual’ Presences Perform - Baltimore, Maryland, United States
Duration: 20 Nov 201423 Nov 2014


ConferenceAmerican Society for Theatre Research
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityBaltimore, Maryland


  • robots
  • dramaturgy
  • machine art


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