If you’ve ever had your portrait scribbled by one of the digital disembodied hands at an arcade artist photo booth, you will have a vague idea of what it feels like to be drawn by a robot. However, those crappy automated scrawls won’t fully prepare you for French artist/scientist Patrick Tresset’s incredible installation ‘6 Robots Named Paul’ opening today at the Merge Festival (until October 21). Picture the scene: you walk into a large studio space, there are classic wooden tables set up ready with pen and paper for a group of eager artists and you are their model. All sounds pretty normal, except that the hands clutching the biros are automated whirring robotic arms and the beady eyes that glance up and scrutinise you are digital cameras.
Patrick’s robots are enchanting. Although they are all programmed to replicate his own drawing style, and in spite of using the same software, they each have their own personalities, techniques and style. Sitting as their subject, it is very easy to feel like you are in a real life-drawing class full of different characters.
One Paul at the back (above) messed around and then started scribbling a self-portrait of his own arm.
Another Paul took an 10 minutes longer than the rest to carefully finish off the details of my shirt.
The Pauls all captured a vague likeness of me (apart from the back row rebel) and although I knew that they were working from a photo they’d taken at the start and only running through the motions of studying my face, their intensity made me want to sit extremely still for them.
Having your portrait drawn by a robot (let alone a cluster of five) is a rare and brilliantly futuristic experience. Who needs real artists when these machines do such a cracking job?!
Although the sessions to sit for five of the six Pauls are now booked up, you can still drop in to be sketched by the sixth Paul anytime until the show closes. Sonya Barber
For info, see mergefestival.co.uk. Hear about it from Patrick below…