European Mobile Lab for Interactive Artists

Artists: IN SERIAL (Linda Dement , Petra Gemeinboeck, PRINZGAU/podgorschek, Marion Traenkle)

Type of project: Performative installation, involving electronics, robots and fluids

Relevant keywords: Deterioration, hindrance, interference, inter-system interaction, leakage, mechanic, mess, pendulous, recurrent, redistribution, repetitiveness, robotic

Dimensions: 8m (length) x 3m (width) x 3m (height)

Materials: 5 robots, 5 platforms (each approx 40 x 55 x 75 cm), electric motor, mop, viscous substances, leaking container, carpet

ON TRACK is a performative installation involving a pendulous mechanical system, trapped robotic brushes and spilling viscous fluids. A disaster-prone scenario unfolds as the protagonists, apparently set to clean, spill, interfere with and hinder each other, creating an ever more slippery mess in intricately choreographed ways.

The work focuses a lens on a common tendency in human endeavour; our overly complicated mechanisms and procedures to produce, control, accumulate and maintain. Each process calls forth new processes and in endless thwarted patterns they restore, redistribute and renew the issues that prior processes have so sophisticatedly invested resources in – as if summoning both Sisyphus and The Sorcerer's Apprentice. This elaborate narrative is fragile, vulnerable to a slipperiness already built in. Like the quartet of ballerinas in ‘Swan Lake’ —arms linked, performing quick, repetitive, synchronised steps— the delicate choreography foretells the fate of its performers; if one falls they all fall. This installation materialises notions of the recurrent, futile and unstable, in a formation of interacting systems, at whose core lies repetitiveness, interference and deterioration.

The unceasing process of redistribution finds its expression in the form of a mechanical mop. As much as the tool of the mop instrumentalises our desire to clean, to restore order, so it reveals the mission’s defeat; cleaning only temporarily, it in fact transports and disperses the mess. The slowly swinging mop is joined by a troupe of autonomous robotic brushes that bring a nervous, teetering energy to the scenario. Opposing and extending the mechanic and pendulous, the robotic brushes bear something more human; laden with intent and sensation, they perform complex choreographed agitations. As these two systems interact, the dialogue unfolding in-between only serves to interfere with the brushes’ impossible assignment.

To propel the narrative of slippage and hindrance, two further systems are in play. The dribbling viscous liquid that leaks from above, creating a congealing trail of puddles and crust, is provocation for both the failing mop and impeded robot brushes. The robots themselves are trapped on platforms suspended above the creeping mess. Confined by their elevated cells, they are abandoned to gesture restlessly and in frustration, teeter at the precipice.

The installation becomes an apparatus propelling a futile continuum, a working conglomeration of machinery, resources, processes, interactions, interruptions and turmoil. Destined to clean and to restore, the systems are hindered, interfere and eventually fail – a process gone off track.

Contact artist: Petra Gemeinboeck (petra@unsw.edu.au)


Programmer – Rob Saunders
Engineer – Thomas Sandri


The Project is made possible with the financial support of the Amsterdams Fonds voor de Kunst (NL); the Media Arts Board, Austrian Federal Ministry for Education, Arts and Culture (A); and was assisted by a grant from the New South Wales Government – Ministry for the Arts, through a program administered by the National Association for the Visual Arts (NAVA), and a grant from the Australian Network for Art and Technology (ANAT).


Project images
(click to enlarge)