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Geek Artists Reveal The Robots Within

This article is more than 13 years old.

We humans love robots. We fear them. We fantasize about them.

At least I do.

Some 70 artists around Boston set out to reveal their "inner robots" for a new show opening Friday in the South End. Recently I went to check out their illustrations, paintings and sculptures, the beautiful and bizarre. That's where I met Skunk.

Skunk deals in junk. He shows me his trio of adorable, scrap-metal creations — three-foot machines called "Astrobots." They're made of used bicycle parts and all kinds of rusty old gears and sprockets.

"Benno" by Skunk
"Benno" by Skunk

"I try to look at myself as a modern-day prospector living off the land," Skunk says. "You know, in my urban environment, there’s ton of steel being chucked and oscillating fan parts and just all kinds of really charismatic and sexy, oily bits."

Boot me up, baby.

"There’s happy ones, there’s sad ones, there’s funky ones, there’s childlike ones. There’s dirty ones," Bennitt says. "They’re people-esque. But, not."

Ami Bennitt is the curator of this show, called "I... You... We... ROBOT." After calling on artists at large for submissions, she received hundreds.

Artist Derrek Coss doesn’t build robots, he paints them — in people-esque settings, with people-esque needs.

"I try to look at some concerns that we as humans are already concerned with. Health care and insurance, workers unions and things of that sort," Coss says.

(I wonder if robots are more likely than Congress to pass health care reform.)

Coss tells me the same thing I hear from a lot of the artists here: It’s fun to play God.

"I think there’s something neat about things that can be humanlike that aren’t human at all. And we can put any kind of human aspect onto these robots, and they’re still robots," he says.

His images reveal powers and abilities we might wish we had. Like the ability to scale a skyscraper with suction-cup feet.

See, that’s the perennial trap for us dumb humans. The robots we create wind up surpassing us. To be honest, most of the creations in this show are way cooler than their creators.

That’s why I wish I could be a robot.

"I... You... We... ROBOT" opens Friday, Jan. 29, at Space 242.

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Andrew Phelps Reporter
Andrew Phelps was formerly a producer and reporter for WBUR.



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