AATB, investigating representations of space and time with robotic arms at CERN
Andrea Anner and Thibault Brevet, the Swiss artists selected for the first edition of Connect, have begun their residency at CERN
AATB, the collaborative practice of Swiss artists Andrea Anner and Thibault Brevet, have started their stay at CERN as the selected artist for the first edition of the Connect, a fully-funded residency for Swiss or Switzerland-based artists interested in developing their artistic practice in the context of the Laboratory’s research and community.
AATB’s work is dedicated to exploring the idea of Non-Industrial Robotics, where the studio experiments with industrial automation processes and robotic arms. They develop works that engage with human-machine interactions through the lens of kinetic and interactive situations.
While robots can execute perfect, vectorised motions, they are also bound by the inherent conditions of the physical world. Mechanical constraints, flexure, thermal expansion, sensor inaccuracies, electronic limitations, and numerical rounding introduce variations and distortions that disrupt the expected precision of these machines. ‘Robots are fascinating devices because they allow us to physically represent digital geometrical information, locate things in space, describe figures and shapes, and trace abstract data into tangible motion,’ say the artists.
Their residency project, entitled 5 Sigma, seeks to investigate representations of space and time using industrial robotic arms. From the ancient crude maps to today’s intricate technological capabilities, the human endeavour to interact with and understand our environment has been central to modelling and measuring it. As we zoom in, the abstract shapes and surfaces used in these representations have hindered the uncertain details that lie beyond these depicting forms. Through their residency, AATB aims to investigate this further, using robots as a medium to reveal these uncertainties and error bars, challenging our perception of space and time.
Both Andrea and Thibault, who grew up with scientist parents and a deep appreciation of scientific research, bring a distinctive perspective to their artistic practice by incorporating scientific methodologies into their robotics research. This residency provides them with a significant opportunity to continue their collaborations with physicists and engineers. Through these exchanges, AATB aims to develop an interactive and kinetic artwork with their four industrial robotic arms, bridging the gap between atomic and cosmological events and bringing them to a human scale.
Launched in 2021, Connect is a collaboration framework between Arts at CERN and the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia that promotes and supports dialogue between artists and scientists within the Laboratory’s context. The programme will continue to announce new residency opportunities in the upcoming months, fostering experimentation in art and fundamental science in Switzerland and worldwide.
Main image: AATB visiting the Low Energy Ion Ring (LEIR) with accelerator physicist Django Manglunki. Photo by Josephine Derome.