What Mistake?

The 2012 Merge Festival is under way in the Bankside area of London and runs until the end of this week. After having such a great time participating last year I’d been in touch with the organisers and arranged for Carole, Keira and I to take part again, this time as the subjects of some drawings.

Yesterday, the three of us each went to a gallery near the Tate Modern and sat for five artists who captured their view of us. Nothing unusual about that, until you learn that the artists were in fact robots, all named Paul. Each robot was made up of a camera, and a drawing arm fixed to a desk, all hooked up to a laptop. They were all programmed by Patrick Tresset and the picture above is the view from the subject’s chair looking out at the robots (just after they’d finished their work).

Looking at the drawings straight after completion, two things struck us. First, they were good likenesses and we really like some of them, and second, they’re all full of what we’d normally refer to as mistakes. As we looked at the pictures, we began to really appreciate the fact that the drawings are in biro. There’s something quite permanent about biro ink and once the pen is committed to paper, you’ve got something lasting, something you can’t rub out and start again. This in turn made me think about some of the drawing exercises I do with groups of people to help encourage a sense of creativity, experimentation, failure and success in the workplace, and the interesting differences we might see when comparing finished pencil and biro drawings, ‘mistakes’ and all.

Here are some of the drawings the robots produced:

Keira Robot Drawing
Carole Robot Drawing
Doug Robot Drawing

This was a great fun experiment to be a part of and a great reminder that one person’s (or robot’s) mistakes, are another’s creative flair. There may yet be slots available in the schedule so if you are in London over the next few days check out the website and see if you can get along and be on the receiving end of a few mistakes.