Hrvoje Hiršl and Doris Aschenbrenner, Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering are working together to complete Is this Life?: an installation at the centre of several years of cross-European collaboration.
Is this Life?
A flock of perfect spheres slowly drifts across space in absolute synchronicity. The spheres shape their path within an invisible matrice while acting together as one diffuse body. Alternately leading and following, they weave an intricate web of relationships, where every action that one takes has repercussions on the rest of the flock. Is this Life? is a work that raises more questions than it answers.
The collaboration between Hrvoje Hiršl and Doris Aschenbrenner constitutes the last phase of a collaborative work spanning three countries over three and a half years. As early as 2017, the artist started to collaborate with Tamara Petrović, Assistant Professor at the Laboratory for Robotics and Intelligent Control Systems (LARICS), Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computing University of Zagreb to compile an algorithm that would allow a set of self-propelled robots to create flocking patterns without a centralised system. Flocking is a term used to define ongoing coordinated movements performed by large swathes of animals such as fishes or birds. These patterns are at the inception of a field researching swarm behaviour, or the ability of a huge flock of animals to exhibits complex decision-making behaviour based on a set of simple rules. These rules, short-range repulsion, alignment within the group and long-range attraction are the basis for the murmuration of birds, boids and spherical robots alike. Almost four years after the beginning of the project, Hrvoje is working with Doris Aschenbrenner and her students to create the physical part of the installation: the robots and their shell.
Anish Kapoor sculpture debris meets postdigital art
Despite being a technologically rich installation, Is this Life? carefully hides it. The algorithm and the robots hosted within smooth material shells do not speak about themselves but point to more fundamental organisational laws. The perfect spheres, found in megastructures like planets and the microscopic world of the atom, are an expression of these organisational laws. By obscuring the underlining mechanisms of the installation, Hrvoje Hiršl calls the audience to uncover its principles and discovers its inner workings. Soon, the observer is set to mentally test out the limits of such a system and wonder whether he or she is also part of it. The interplay of the spheres with each other and with the audience places the viewers in an endlessly feedbacking system of information. Robots and audience alternately become receivers, transmitters or the data itself. This system of information points toward relationships between human and technology which are both adaptative and symbiotic.
Hrvoje Hiršl is an artist, researcher and designer. His artistic research focuses on the intersection of contemporary art and media art discourse. The recurrent themes of his work include limitations of the medium, automation, complex systems and cybernetics. He is interested in revealing hidden structures and principles and developing strategies to make them visible. His work encompasses sound installations, video installations, interactive installations, prints, etc.
He was nominated for the Radoslav Putar Award for the best Croatian artist under 35 in 2012 and was one of the representatives for Croatia at the Design Biennale in London in 2016. He is currently working on a book for the Institute of Network Cultures in Amsterdam to be published in 2021.
Doris Aschenbrenner is Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering. Before 2017, she was a researcher at the institute Zentrum für Telematik at Würzburg. She received her computer science diploma at the University of Würzburg in 2012 and holds a doctorate degree from the same university covering a work about remote maintenance of industrial robots. Doris works on robotics and automation, cognitive systems and advanced human-machine interfaces like Augmented and Virtual Reality. Her main research interest is to create sustainable employment within the fourth industrial revolution.
TU Delft team
University of Zagreb team
Republic of Croatia Ministry of Culture and Media