‘Can’t Help Myself’ – We couldn’t help digging into this bit of Robot Art

With Christmas looming we thought we’d take a little step back from the usual blogs about transport or lifting projects and pop a little post up about something that recently caught our eye on social media.

As you can imagine, our social media feeds are full of some weird and wonderful things.  Terrible driving, shiny new trucks, training opportunities, accessories for vehicles, and much much more. But not often art!

When we saw this however, we couldn’t help digging a little deeper. It even led us to think about how we interpret the art and indeed wanted to share this with you all.

Let’s start with a bit of background about ‘Can’t Help Myself’

Title: Can’t Help Myself
Artist: Sun Yuan and Peng Yu – Heilongjiang Province, China
Date: 2016
Commissioned for: Guggenheim Museum

What does it do? And what does it mean?

“In this work commissioned for the Guggenheim Museum, Sun Yuan & Peng Yu employ an industrial robot, visual-recognition sensors, and software systems to examine our increasingly automated global reality, one in which territories are controlled mechanically and the relationship between people and machines is rapidly changing. Placed behind clear acrylic walls, their robot has one specific duty, to contain a viscous, deep-red liquid within a predetermined area. When the sensors detect that the fluid has strayed too far, the arm frenetically shovels it back into place, leaving smudges on the ground and splashes on the surrounding walls.” 

The robot represents/acknowledges a collection of global issues and you can read more on the meaning here https://www.guggenheim.org/

How have people interpreted it?

This is the bit we’ve found the most interesting.  What we first read was that this robot was always built to fail.

Check out the passage below from Marcus Crandon on Facebook, which was the post doing the rounds.

Of course it transpires that the red liquid is not blood, it’s oil and the bot is not frantically fighting for life.  But what an imagination, and indeed, concept.

 

cant help myself robot

Another TikTokker stated this – equally as deep!

 @julia_bernard_ Sun Yuan and Peng Yu, Can’t Help Myself, 2016 #robot #biennale ♬ Je te laisserai des mots – Patrick Watson

“Continuously cleaning up the pieces of yourself as you endlessly fall apart, alone, while everyone watches you and uses you for entertainment,”

Us, well we were first led to believe that this was a machine built to fail.

After searching and reading we realise that it’s not the case. The web tells us that it was designed to stop in 2019 but on its way to stopping, it got messy.

It showed signs of age from its environment and maybe its dance moves changed as it had more cleaning to do. Much like our cranes: extremely important pieces of kit which start off sparkling but get sent into the field where weather and use impact the way their appearance over time.

We’ve always seen them as pieces of art!

Image used courtesy of Wikipedia: Ana Romero López, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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