Robot artists gate-crashed the media preview of the NGV Triennial – and, boy, did they kill

Sit, Spot, sit: One of three robots that will make art at the Triennial.

An early preview of the 2023 NGV Triennial on Wednesday morning (5 April) was graced by a surprise visit from two of its stars.

Once NGV director Tony Ellwood AM was through with his 17-minute video presentation – highlighting the themes of Matter, Magic & Memory and how the gallery-swallowing exhibition will showcase the works of 100+ artists from more than 30 countries – the lights dimmed, the music blared and in walked the event’s special guests.

Lead by artist Agnieszka Pilat, an avowed lover of robotics and their potential for human connection, were two robot “dogs” who walked in a slightly eerie manner down the centre of the venue and up onto the stage.

After being put through their paces before an awestruck crowd, Pilat and her charges posed for photographs. To say the assembled media were enthralled and besotted by the design and alacrity of these life-like robots is putting it mildly.

Pilat will work with these AI-powered walking machines to autonomously produce works of art each day of the four-month exhibition.

As frightening as these mechanized beasts may seem to anyone who has watched that Black Mirror episode – or any sci-fi movie made over the past century, for that matter – robots hold huge potential in the fields of welfare and health care.

“Spot” is the generic brand name for these robots, though the ones appearing at the NGV Triennial are known as Bonnie, Archie and Basia (Pilat’s own “companion” pet robot). They were designed by Boston Dynamics primarily as industrial robots.

They have also deployed by law enforcement and the military, though there is a strict prohibition against using the robots to harm or threaten people, and weaponizing them is illegal. Sales of Spot are restricted and subject to a raft of very heavy conditions.

The NGV Triennial opens on Sunday 3 December and runs until 7 April, 2024. Entry is free. Go here for early details and a very attractive promo.

Enjoy the video.