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Video Sarah Thee Campagna Makes Robot Sculptures (Video) 33

Sarah's CyberCraft "about" page says, "Here at CyberCraft Robots, our Orbiting Laboratory allows us to search local star systems for Artifacts from the Future." CyberCraft's Earthside component is in St. Petersburg, Florida, where Sarah assembles robots from found parts that others might think are just ordinary industrial detritus, but that she has learned to recognize as parts from disassembled or abandoned robots. She has an alternate version of CyberCraft's history for people "with less imagination," about how she jumped from being a math whiz to studying for an EE to working as a programmer to art... and into making art robots. Or robot art, depending on how you look at it. The robots, ray guns, and spaceships Sarah makes will not fight battles or clean your house. They just sit there and look good. And they get shown in fine art galleries, so we know they're art, not just ordinary robots. This isn't to say Sarah is the only human making robot sculptures. A Google search for "robot sculpture" turns up plenty of others. We met Sarah purely by chance. We easily could have met one of the many other robot sculptors instead, but she's the one we happened to come across first. Perhaps the Quantum Computer that runs the Orbiting Robot Laboratory directed us to her. That's as good an explanation as any, isn't it?


Also, sometimes we will find that there are robots who have gotten stuck somewhere in a planet and then left by whoever it was that put them there. And they need a rescue, so sometimes we will take them and rehab them. Sometimes they join our project and help us in furthering of our mission. But sometimes they are old and they just want to retire and have a nice retirement. So we keep them healthy so that they can enjoy their lives.

How I got this job as a primary robot creator – I happen to be at a time in my life when I was looking for a new direction with my art. And I love science fiction, I love 3D, I love working with metal, I love putting things together – it is something I’ve always had a passion for. So when the Orbiting Laboratory arrived in earth orbit looking for a human representative to work with, I applied for the job and got it – it was just perfect for me.

Another way to look at it, the way I explain it to some people who don’t have as much imagination is that I have worked at other forms of art, I did installations, and I was doing a lot of serious statement oriented work, and then my husband got really ill. And I took three years away from art to help him. And he got well. And when I went back to do art again, none of the things I used to do were of interest to me at all. And I think it is because I just wanted to do something fun. I wanted to have a good time.

I still wanted to say something about the human condition, which is one of the reasons that I work with robots to start with, because they have a face, and it is easier to tell a human story with something that has a face. But I couldn’t decide what I wanted to do for a while, so I started looking at all the things in my life that I love, and I love science fiction, I love ... shapes so something magic happened, and the robots came from that.

When I started selling my robots and rayguns and spaceships, I was not surprised that geeks were going to be part of my market. People have money, appreciate science fiction, but the big surprise has been how many of my collectors are physicians - I really didn’t think of that. And about half of my sales, two of my serious collectors that have purchased multiple pieces are physicians.

Robin: So you have people who seriously collect your work?

Sarah: Yes, increasingly many. Most of them start with one piece, and I’ve got a couple of collectors who come and see me at a particular show every single year and add to their collection. Some of my collectors are across the country now – I’ve got collectors from New Jersey to Seattle, which is really cool.

Robin: So you’ve got all these collectors all these people, science fiction readers right?

Sarah: Mostly yes.

Robin: Geeks, technological people?

Sarah: Yeah. I find that people who travel a lot for some reason also really like the spaceships. I’ve sold a lot of spaceships to people who travel for their jobs; oftentimes those people are geeks. And I think a lot of times, people just become really captured by the story. Each piece has a story. And the pieces are interesting to look at on their own, but when you find out about their background, where this robot came from or where we found the parts for this, this raygun or perhaps some battle the raygun was used in, they can really connect to them even more.

Robin: That is cool. Which is harder for you, takes longer? Making a physical piece, or coming up with the story?

Sarah: Which takes longer is definitely making it. Which is harder and completely depends on luck I think. The story begins to create itself as I am making the piece. But usually that will snap together pretty quickly by the time I am ready to sit down and write it, because I’ve been thinking about it as I’ve been putting the piece together. The thing about the pieces is what makes them take more or less time is first of all, if I’ve never made something like it before - the first time I made a raygun it took me three times longer than the second time I made a raygun. Because raygun kind of is like more is more kind of situation, whereas robots are less is more. And it is hard to switch my brain around in the other direction.

And the first time I made a flying saucer it took me a while to figure out how long the legs need to be to each other and where they need to be located. Which sounds like it might be easy, but our brains know exactly what a flying saucer is supposed to look like, and if the parts of the legs are too long, you’ll know that’s wrong - for some reason it just jumps out at you. So it is one of the things that you have to be really careful about is proportions. With the robots as well. If I wanted to tell a human story, the robot has to be identifiable in some way. So if the proportions are off, it has to be on purpose – it can’t be an accident.

Robin: Interesting. Interesting. Now one thing we better make as a note for the audience: These robots will not pick up after you, they are art objects.

Sarah: That’s correct. They are fine art sculptures. None of them move, at this time anytime. I may go kinetic eventually, but I’ll only do that if there’s a reason. I don’t want just a robot that just waves his arms back and forth. All you’ve got then is a really expensive toy. So if I do put movement into any of my robots, it will be because they are tracking someone, or it has to contribute to who they are and their story. A few pieces do have electronics in them, my rayguns all light up. I am about to do a spaceship with lights in it. I just built the biggest robot I’ve ever done, which is 30 inches tall who is a laboratory guy, he is collecting samples from earth, and he has got all kinds of lights in him because his samples all glow.

Robin: Now a couple of other things we might make as notes: You should not go up and brandish your raygun in the face of somebody with a regular real gun, right?

Sarah: I actually did when I went into the newspaper, the St. Petersburg Times, to do a photo shoot. The security guy met me at the door, because I was carrying a raygun. He felt silly afterward to make a joke out of it, but he was actually a little bit alarmed.

Robin: And spaceships – you are not going to get in these spaceships and go visit the moons of Jupiter, right?

Sarah: Well, people who buy it are not - the robots may use them for that. But most humans are probably not going to be able to do that, at least not at this time.

My education background is in computers. And the way that happened was that I was a math whiz that actually went to make a living, and I found out that only very few mathematicians at that time were getting jobs. So computers were in a state then where your computer at your school would be a Tandy attached to like a set player and yet I still fell in love with them. And I am sure Star Trek has a lot to do with this.

So that is my education, and I worked in that career for a lot of years; as computers became more ubiquitous, by the time I left that field, everybody had a computer in their house practically at least in this country. I have always used computers as a tool, and I think there are a lot of people who are trying to make a living as artists who don’t have that background - I am really fortunate about that.

Also, my husband is an electrical engineer, and because I have the background that I do, he and I are able to work things out with the same kind of brain. And I think that my programming brain helps a lot in building my art. First of all, I am not afraid of things that are hard and pointy and scratchy and hardware-ish. I know that art can be something that isn’t just made with paint. And I think that is one of the things that I was influenced by in my background. Also I think that I use a programmer’s brain when I put my work together.

There are lots of layers that you don’t see. In order to make my work look effortless, there is a lot of hidden work, hidden layers of support and putting things together. I only work with fasteners. And I enjoy that. It adds to my esthetics. But it also means that all the structure needs to be built from the inside.

So you have to think about everything as you would as a programmer, you have to think about it from the inside out, from the end to the top, and from the top to the bottom - it is all a lot of logic. I don’t think I would be able to do this if I hadn’t been a programmer first.

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Sarah Thee Campagna Makes Robot Sculptures (Video)

Comments Filter:
  • Is it really a robot if it doesn't fulfill a practical purpose? Robot is derived from a word meaning "slave" because it does work in place of a person. If it is unable to do work, by conjoining AI with mobility, does it really fit the bill? What makes a windmill not a robot? What makes a drill not a robot?

    Android: sure, robot: I'm not convinced.

    • by gl4ss ( 559668 )

      it's a doll.
      these are pretty retro dolls too. I kinda dig Hajime Sorayama type fantasy robots more though.. not particularly into old toys.

      the title of the video is pretty stupid though. these doll robots are art - and that's all they are! art!

      (why is the title of the slashdot produced video different than the headline for the friggin article?? INSANITÄYFAS)

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Actually they're not even dolls, since they're bolted to plates. They're sculptures that look like robots. One might even go as far as saying they're not even that - since these sculptures fulfill no purpose or explain nothing insofar as they are aesthetic. Their back stories are not relevant or discernible from their form. They're just pretty, if that.
        • by icebike ( 68054 )

          If that, indeed.
          I would like the 9 minutes of my life that I spent watching that nonsense back, and you can keep the junk you welded together.

          You see this stuff by the roadside of any country bumpkin that bought a welder. (or a Chainsaw).
          You always drive past, and never once think of posting it on Slashdot.
          Those are the rules folks.
          No, inventing a ridiculous back story doesn't earn you an exception.

    • Is it really a robot if it doesn't fulfill a practical purpose? Robot is derived from a word meaning "slave" because it does work in place of a person. If it is unable to do work, by conjoining AI with mobility, does it really fit the bill? What makes a windmill not a robot? What makes a drill not a robot?

      Android: sure, robot: I'm not convinced.


      "Hah! That's not a robot!..."

      "...THIS is a ROBOT!!" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yj7DgklsZDk [youtube.com]



    • Is it really a robot if it doesn't fulfill a practical purpose? Robot is derived from a word meaning "slave" because it does work in place of a person. If it is unable to do work, by conjoining AI with mobility, does it really fit the bill? What makes a windmill not a robot? What makes a drill not a robot?

      Android: sure, robot: I'm not convinced.

      The origin of the word robot is from art! It comes from the story R.U.R [wikipedia.org]. by Karel Capek. So complaining that these are not robots because they are art is iron(ic).

  • by wjcofkc ( 964165 ) on Tuesday July 02, 2013 @04:00PM (#44169779)
    Ok, so I take a brief catnap, wake up and go check out slashdot where I see this story. I am now going back to sleep in hopes that I wake up for real, at which point I will return to slashdot and see that in fact this was never posted.
  • If she's the only "human representative" in the organization, who is "we"? When working with my toaster, I don't generally use the pronoun "we".
  • Not reproductions of robots from famous works of fiction.
    Not models of actual robots used in real life.
    Not functional in any way.

    This looks like something a young kid would build with some super glue and a box full of electrical fittings and cabinet hardware from Home Depot. What's next, bleach bottle pigs?

  • I miss Hemos and Taco that much the more.

  • by nimbius ( 983462 ) on Tuesday July 02, 2013 @05:03PM (#44170331) Homepage

    And they get shown in fine art galleries, so we know they're art, not just ordinary robots.

    MoMA? LACMA? nope, according to the website we're just showcasing around the florida area. sure, they can be regular art, lets just take a step back from comparing it to works from artists like Brendan Carney, Jonathan Hartshorn, Thury Sigurthorsdottir, or Scott Lawrence

    We met Sarah purely by chance.

    Perhaps. Seeing as slashdot video articles are commonly geared exclusively toward slashvertisement I'll fashion another theory. People ignore these like the plague, so to drum up more support (and targeted advertising interest) you gin-up a nice fluff piece and build some click metrics.

    Sarah assembles robots from found parts that others might think are just ordinary industrial detritus

    thats because they are industrial detritus. these are the to slashdot as Folk Art is to a 62 year old empty nester, only most of us are intelligent enough not to venture on down to the gift shop at the St Petersburg museum (thats the world famous Florida location, not the Moscow one) and blow $340 on a paperweight because it reminds us of robots.

    Perhaps the Quantum Computer that runs the Orbiting Robot Laboratory directed us to her.

    Perhaps it can redirect your milton freeman head out of your moneygrabbing arse and point it in the direction of meaningful news for nerds instead of a middle aged EE Dropout who moved to florida to follow her true calling hocking scrap steel figurines.

    • Oh god, mod this up please. /. has really gone down the tubes since CmdrTaco left and DICE bought them. I really don't understand why I still come here (or even still have /. as my homepage anymore). A few more articles like this and I'm gone for good... Sad really, because /. has been my homepage since about '98-'99... Let's see if this gets deleted like some of my other posts criticizing them...
  • -1, really?

    I mean, it's cool, but can we all just post links to our friends' art sites? I mean, she's basically a junk artist - not being dismissive, mind you, as some of it is cool; I'm just questioning the topicality and relevance to /.

  • I was kind of hoping for an artist that uses robots to creat traditional sculptures, maybe some combination of CNC and sensor data and 3D printing. That would have been a coolburger drenched in awesomesauce.

    These are great little sculptures made from high-tech yard waste, but they're not really robots in any meaningful sense of the term.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Posting as AC because I modded here. Looking at her website [cybercraftrobots.com], it's pretty clear she's not using "robot parts". This one [cybercraftrobots.com], for example, is mostly plumbin pipes sitting inside a chain-link fence post cap. Basically, this lade just glues together a bunch of random junk, calls it "art," and now it's on /. Amazing.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    No Dice.

Garbage In -- Gospel Out.