the state of us

The latest exhibition,’The State of Us’, at The Lowry asks what happens when a robot learns to draw?

Meet ‘Paul’ a robot coded to sketch portraits in a matter of minutes.

The robot appears at The Lowry as part of ‘The State of Us‘, an international exhibition which explores how technology shapes how we view ourselves.

Developed by Brussels-based artist Patrick Tresset, the robot’s style is inspired by its creator’s work

The robot is made of an old school desk with a mechanical arm and a camera set to look like part of a life drawing class.

Sitting and having yourself drawn is a rather bizarre experience watching ‘Paul’ examine you then starting to draw.

As the life drawing starts to develop so does its audience with a crowd of people engrossed by the technology driven art happening before them.

You, like ‘Paul’, become part of the exhibition.

Watching ‘Paul’ draw is equally as interesting as its scribbles slowly become a clear sketch of the subject.

As it starts to draw you can’t help but wonder how well will it interpret the subjects features. How will ‘Paul’ approach sketching a hat, facial hair or a pair of glasses?

The results prove at times to be comical but often very realistic with sketches having all the defining features of the subject.

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Emily Pearson is a guide at the Lowry, she spoke to us about some of her own observations of the robot’s work during the exhibition.

“If someone has darker features or glasses he’ll focus on them more.

“Girls seem to have fewer striking features so the features in the drawing are less defined.”

During my visit ‘Paul’ did something rather strange as it started to draw off the page and onto the desk before scribbling rather raggedly.

“Sometimes he does that,” Miss Pearson said: “Sometimes he’ll draw legs and hands, he found a face on a man’s pocket the other day.”

When talking to people at the exhibition it’s difficult to not notice how people often refer to the robot as ‘he’ rather than ‘it’.

Through the exhibit’s interactivity the art itself becomes somewhat human.

The installation starts to blur the lines between living species and technology.

‘The State of Us’ exhibition can be found in The Lowry until Sunday 23rd February 2020.

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