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A piece on the movement of flowers, robots, time, and perspective: Floribots

Geoffrey Drake-Brockman’s Floribots provokes many conversations about art as a concept and this particular conversation is about to get very meta and might be borderline pretentious in the way that only the art world can be, so be warned. For something that has been around for a couple of decades, this installation is still providing fresh perspectives. This is expected from an interactive piece that responds to the crowd’s input.

Its anachronistic and cross generational appeal gives room for everyone’s interpretation. From the petals that are shaped like a chatterbox, or perhaps a fortune teller depending on your demographic, to the technological elements. For someone who is analytical and looks for patterns all day every day, I was surprised to not quickly notice one in Floribots. The sensors were easy enough to spot. Moving, and not staying still in front of the sensors is a simple directive. And I leapt at the opportunity to move around to consume art, which pleased my primal aversion to sitting still. Yet I didn’t notice a pattern. My date did within minutes, as I’m sure many other viewers have and will. The fact that my analytical brain didn’t look for the patterns in the choreography was actually quite nice, albeit surprising. There was a lot else to take in.

Floribots created by Geoffrey Drake-Brockman

The intersection of technology and art is a beautiful defiance against the notion that the two should be juxtaposed. While technology may not be considered as contemporary now as it was upon release, its relevance to the art remains. Perhaps the etymology of “state of the art” alludes to this notion. The essence of the artwork is fundamentally rooted in a piece of code. It just goes to show how beautiful logic can be. This computerised basis also draws attention to the arbitrary separation of work and play. Adults learn practical skills like coding or building, and every exercise of those skills can be a form of play. Coming straight from work to this exhibition in the city tainted my interpretation in that way.

Looking at this piece through a 2022 lens, there was no environmental intention to be found in the materials. The only recycled component was a plastic part from a purple ice cream container which formed the base of the flower at the top of the stem. Capitalist ownership of colours be damned, because I know you know exactly what shade of purple it is. The purpose-built parts do not make this a failure in waste reduction. To say so would be to say this purpose is a wasteful pursuit, which art isn’t; even when it isn’t as enduring as this piece is. I saw it as a reflection of biodiversity. The programming of the bots was an intentional design, with its movements changing in response to the environment around it (read: you. The viewer). Is this not how flowers in nature work? The movements were based in logic, yet unpredictable to this viewer.

Amidst all of these perspectives that I bought to the exhibition, I can’t say for sure how future audiences, whether that be tomorrow, or further beyond, will agree with my interpretation. Maybe if you walk around and interact with the Floribots they will tell you an entirely different story to the one I heard. If they do, let me know. I’m contactable via the underground network of roots that connects us all.

You can check out Floribots at Moana Hall Chambers in Hay Street Mall from November 5 to December 2.