Copyright the artist; VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, Germany; Photo Jens Ziehe
Robotic arms, computer, decommissioned solar panel, flint
We Didn’t Start the Fire consists of two robotic arms to which pieces of flint have been attached. Huddled together on a solar panel floor, the two appear as sneaky children, rubbing together stones historically used by hominids to produce flame, staged in the gallery as a mechanical bid to reenact humanity’s primeval theft of fire. Beyond being a tool for our species development, the artwork utilizes the symbol of an eternal flame as a parallel for consciousness, wherein the robotic cognitive potential acts as a time-travelling vehicle for speculating on machine temporalities and what artificial light might await in a deep, perhaps non-human, future?
As such it raises questions of technological progress as well as the planetary price paid for the anthropogenic pursuit of boundless energy production. Although their playful choreographed motions rarely create sparks, We Didn’t Start the Fire suggests the stirring of an artificial intelligence with its own nascent psychology and mythology taking form.