Walking the Dog. 2016 HACKING HABITAT - ART OF CONTROL, Utrecht. Curated by Ine Gevers.
A replica of Boston Dynamic’s ‘Big Dog’ is trying to dance on a wooden stage, standing in the spotlight next to a fake palm tree. An old radio-cassette player blurts out Rufus Thomas’ hit song Walking the Dog. This is not an illegitimate copy of a military machine, but a new artwork by Dutch artist Paul Segers.
The work has been created for the exhibition HACKING HABITAT – Art of Control, at the oldest prison in the Netherlands, which shows how systems are holding us hostage. “High-tech systems are taking increasing control of our lives. Security cameras monitor our moves, Google steers what we do online with incomprehensible algorithms and we are having a collective love affair with our smart phones. The good news is: we’re taking control back into our own hands. The international art exhibition HACKING HABITAT will open on February 26th in a former prison, the perfect place to experience what control feels like. Socially engaged and critical, but also humorous and optimistic. More than eighty internationally acclaimed artists show us the power of high-tech networks as well as how we can fight back. How do we win our world back from institutions and systems? How do we find the right balance between technology and humanity?”
Segers’ version of Big Dog is seemingly trying to make it in the entertainment industry, or being used for entertainment purposes after becoming obsolete as some kind of terminator (packing mule). Segers saw this scene in a dream in which he stumbled through a Chinese alley at night, passing some bbq-joints to find a busted Big Dog dancing on a stuffy stage with an old radio and filmspot. To him, this image was perfectly merging entertainment, (obsolete) technology, military machinery, film, reality and fiction. As Baudrillard already proclaimed; the 21st. Century will be characterized by hyper-reality in which – amongst others - the difference between the real and the copy, the object and it’s image will disappear into hyperspace. By now, the dehumanization of western warfare has been fully assimilated by film, games and the numbing effect of the internet’s endless repetition of imagery. At the same time, our fascination with technology is unsatiable and blurs our minds to the hardly mentioned side-effects, like waking up to find a Big Dog up your alley…
Boston Dynamics, a company owned by Google Inc. has apparently stopped developing this machine for DARPA, unable to make it bullet-proof, quiet and actually useful on the battlefield.
Photo's: Peter Cox.