Come In, It's Free
We were invited to Dublin to curate a robotic art show. Ireland was then the Celtic Tiger, having leaped from its position as one of the poorest nations in the EU, second only to Portugal. We found a city dotted with the cranes and pilings of massive construction projects. It was flush with biotechs, venture capitalists, software companies, and budget surplus. Flush, too, with immigrants—Eastern Europeans and Asians to wash dishes, sweep streets, and mind babies. Of course the city wanted robots—that slick creature toward which we’re tending or to which we’ll cede, depending on our folklore.
But conditions did not hold. A year or so later, capital, jobs, citizens, and immigrants began to trickle and then rush out of the country. The government declared bankruptcy. Construction projects halted and then fell back down to earth. Exposed rebar became the ruins of the twenty-first century.
Conditions did not hold—it’s a phrase we keep worrying. In retrospect, this experience of Dublin has become a loose collection, gathered under the title “Drift.” “Species drift” describes random genetic divergence en route to speciation. Forest apes becoming chimpanzees and bonobos, finches radiating. Our own purpose there was to wonder about the continuum between art and automation, between human and machine. At the time, we found category instability intriguing.