Disruptive Roombas Reflect on the IoT

Nadine Roestenburg
March 1st 2017

While I was listening to a fridge in the exhibition Alien Matter, suddenly an orchid on a Roomba hit my feet. The Roomba is part of Internet of Things No. 1 – 3, by artist Addie Wagenknecht, that consists of two other robotic vacuum cleaners that roam around while one carries a box of soylent and the other one a crystal. Internet of Things reflects on the adjustments we make to the environment in our attempt to save time and be more productive.

Each Roomba has a different function: one has a Wi-Fi hotspot, the other one a signal jammer that breaks the connection and the third one has a Tor browser that encrypts the connection. Depending on the distance between the Roombas, determined by their algorithm, the Internet connection will function, be encrypted, or be broken.

According to Wagenknecht, the Roombas illustrate "the play of the Internet of Things; we are trying to make everything super-hyper-automatic and autonomous but yet it is constantly failing on us. I wanted to play with that frustration. At the same time there is the joy of it being automatic but finding out that the automatic is actually more work than if it was something you were doing yourself. For example, with the vacuums it seems such a good idea but then when you start running it, you are like shit… I still have to vacuum".

Alien Matter, photo by Luca Girardini

Internet of Things reflects on the unpredictability of objects interacting within the network. When a Roomba hits an obstacle it steers in other directions until it has detected an obstacle-free path to continue its way. The orchid, soylent and crystal placed upon the roombas conceal the hardware but also play off and comment on commercial cubicle culture.

Internet of Things No. 1-3 is part of the exhibition Alien Matter, curated by Inke Arns, on show at Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin until March 5, 2017.

Source: TransmedialePost-Digital Blog. Image: MU, Transmediale

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