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Exhibitions

Robert Twomey

The Serious Business of Children

Robert Twomey’s room-scale mechatronic installation, The Serious Business of Children, examines issues of meaning and expression from the oblique angle of children's pre-language.

The Serious Business of Children (child’s drawing detail), 2015. Child’s drawing with custom pen plotter. 18 x 24 inches. Photo courtesy of the artist.
The Serious Business of Children (child’s drawing detail), 2015. Child’s drawing with custom pen plotter. 18 x 24 inches. Photo courtesy of the artist.
  • October 1 - 29, 2015
  • Opening: Thursday, October 1, 6:00 — 8:00 pm

Twomey populates his installation with speaking, listening, and drawing machines that communicate with one another using synthesized voices and drawings in a process of continuous translation from word to image. Audio recordings and children’s drawings are the raw material of the system. They are analyzed by computer and re-synthesized by machines. The project uses children’s early expressions as protolanguage, unintelligible in any conventional sense, but communicative in other registers.

The Serious Business of Children was inspired by the notable American philosopher John Rogers Searle. Searle, whose expertise was in the philosophy of language, developed the “Chinese room” argument to challenge the popular idea called “strong” artificial intelligence, that it’s possible for a computer running a program to have a “mind” or “consciousness” (think Hal in 2001).


About the Artist

Robert Twomey is trained as an artist and engineer. His projects integrate traditional art forms with advanced technologies to create interactive hybrid artworks. Twomey builds on traditions of systems art, surrealist collage, and site-specific installation to explore fundamental issues related to the complex human-machine interface.

Twomey earned a B.S. from Yale University with majors in visual arts and biomedical engineering and an MFA from the University of California, San Diego. He is currently a PhD candidate and post-doctoral researcher at the UW’s Center for Digital Arts and Experimental Media (DXARTS). His work has been exhibited in the US and abroad.