Analog Toys Get A Second Life As Artistic Robots [Videos]

Analog Toys Get A Second Life As Artistic Robots [Videos]
Arts & Culture

Echo Yang gives a group of forgotten objects an art career of their own.

Rachel Pincus
  • 4 march 2014

No longer content to hop around in circles or spin around in cake batter all day, a group of mechanical toys and small appliances are beginning a second career as painters, using their repetitive motions to make intricate patterns on paper. The Autonomous Machines Project, the brainchild of freelance graphic designer and 2013 MA Information Design graduate of Design Academy Eindhoven Echo Yang, is meant as an answer to modern generative design processes, wherein computers create endless variations on a theme without human input. Instead of the complex mathematical programming involved in these processes, Yang’s creatures click, hop and spin, each showing the trace of their motion in paint, ink and various other materials.

For the TinToy (chicken) variation, Yang attached cotton swabs with various colors of paints to the back of a wind-up chicken toy. Half of the toy’s outer shell was removed, presumably for balance reasons. The colors may have been chosen by Yang, but the patterns in which they’re arrayed are the ‘choice’ of the chicken.

A hand mixer got its own mini paint brushes in the hand mixer variation. Watching the ink appear on the page in circular patterns is mesmerizing.

If you’ve never seen a Walkman make anything actually walk, check out this video of one using a bent wire to spin a pencil lead around. It’s a noisy process that creates bold, uneven streaks on the paper. After 48 minutes, it started to tear up the surface. A differently bent wire creates a much smoother result.

Yang’s electric shaver also makes circular patterns that are fine and pressure-sensitive. The robustness of this tool, which required little modification from its original form, allows for human factors like pressure to come into play as it is manipulated by human, instead of machine, hands.

The wildcard in Yang’s upright vacuum cleaner experiment was the fuzzy material of the device’s brushes. As it turns out, they spat out the ink in randomized splatters. Yang also tried leaving the vacuum cleaner to its own devices, which created some even crazier patterns.

Who knew that a windup clock could use a pencil? The watch’s mechanism, unaccustomed to carrying such a heavy weight, groans and complains as it makes tiny dots all over the paper, first with pencil lead and then with charcoal.

Two more autonomous art machines – a hand sewing machine and a food chopper – can be found on Yang’s Vimeo channel.

Echo Yang

Image and Source: Mocoloco

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