Q&A December

A monthly Digest feature where we ask questions about the nature of creative collaborative practice, the stories artists tell and ANAT’s place within the art + science + technology network.

Wade Marynowsky, Yesterday’s Futurist, (Self Portrait with Lightsaber), 2017. Image courtesy the artist.

Wade Marynowsky

Dr. Wade Marynowsky is an artist, academic and researcher working interdisciplinary across the arts and sciences, including robotics, immersive and interactive performance and installation, music and video. He is a lecturer in Interaction Design, School of Computer Science, Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology, University of Technology Sydney.

His main body of research explores the notion of robotic performance agency by challenging traditional notions of classical spectatorship and performance. Through the use of humour and a host of unnerving thematics he addresses important issues relevant to our ever increasing computer-controlled society. Exhibiting nationally and internationally since 1998 Marynowsky’s work has been presented in major festivals, biennales and survey exhibitions.

Can you tell us about your connection to ANAT?
My connection to ANAT starts back in 2002 when I received a quick response grant to attend the Solar Circuit, artist’s residency, in Hobart and Maria Island, Tasmania as well as the A2d, VJ workshop at the Adelaide Fringe Festival. The outcomes of the residency and workshop included audo-visual performances in Hobart and at the Adelaide Fringe, 2002.

In 2007, my work THE_GEEK_FROM_SWAMPY_CREEK featured on the compilation DVD, ANAT, Filter Issue 66, Synchresis.

In 2019, I presented at the ANAT Salon :: Emotionally Engaging the Machine, Customs House, Sydney.

More recently, I was received creative research funding from the ANAT Ideate 2020 program to explore “technological ecosystems as sustainable artworks” resulting in multiple works such as AquaTronics and a series of proposed renewable energy public artworks.

Wade Marynowsky, The Hosts, Mediations Biennale, The 2nd International Biennale of Contemporary Art, Poznan, Poland, 2010.

Everybody’s a storyteller. What stories are you telling through your work?
Through the use of humour and a host of unnerving thematics my work addresses important issues relevant to our ever increasing computer-controlled society, at the same time I think there needs to be room for audience interpretation. Robot Opera, 2015 is a good case in point. During the residency hosted by Performance Space at Carrageworks, Branch Nebula’s Lee Wilson, and Mirabelle Wouters and composer Julian Knowles and I decided that we did not want to have any narrative within the dramaturgical arc of the durational performance (between humans and robots), instead we tore up random words from Real Time magazine and recorded these – human voices. We then copied the samples over to the robot’s computers to act as robot voices so in a sense they were talking non-sense or random poetry. That said, when working with robots as performance agents the whole narrative of science fiction history comes into play. For example, the fear that our technological overlords will someday surpass our knowledge and control us (2001 A Space Odyssey). Within Robot Opera this narrative is enhanced in the real life experience, especially within a darkened room with large scale robots coming towards you, talking to you, following you, accompanied with an omnipresent surround sound track.

Wade Marynowsky, Robot Opera, 2015, National Kaohsiung Center for the Arts, Tawain, 2016.

How has your practice changed over time?
Well, thats a long story! I started painting in watercolours, then oils, I worked in ceramics, sculpture, photography. When I got to University they had a basic Mac lab (Apple 575’s with a 33 MHz processor, 8 MB of RAM, and a 320 MB hard drive) and I remember the day they connected the lab machines to the internet. I lived across the road from the college and basically lived on campus. I was always in the multi-media and sound studios, including weekends. This is when I started creating time-based works and composing audio-visual performances. The technique began by triggering audio-visual loops and samples from the computer keyboard, for *1 hour performances. I would take the large Mac computers (before laptops) to pub gigs and lug huge projectors around. There was always the threat of the machine crashing and I would have to re-boot mid performance. Later as the machines got faster, I was into real-time processing of audio-visual channels and laptop performance.

During my doctoral research (An exploration of the Uncanny in autonomous artworks) I developed multiple large scale autonomous and robotic works, such as Autonomous Improvisation, 2007, The Hosts, 2009, and later The Acconci Robot, 2012. The robotic works where then further developed into the large scale robotic performances for Robot Opera, 2015 which peaked when touring at the National Kaohsiung Center for the Arts, Taiwan, 2016. Since then, I have developed smaller scale robots such as, Synthesiser-Robot, 2017 and The Ghosts of Roller Disco, 2020. Within most of these works the focus is on the live experience, and experiencing robots (in real life) as performance agents.

Recently, I have returned to video and sound works where I am investigating the potential of meta-creation with AI agents. I am also in the bush filming wildlife, such as Lyrebirds and Cicadas. Mixed within this timeline there are hand carved, large-scale wooden remote controls (Remote Tribe, 2012), a Black Metal version of The Wheel of Fortune, (Black Casino, 2013), autonomus performances from obsolete technologies (Bricolage Disco, 2010),  interactive kangraoo’s, and Automatic Teller Machines, etc.

Wade Marynowsky, Synthesiser-Robot, The Beijing Media Arts Biennale, China, 2018.

What are you working on at the moment?
Currently I am working on the sound design for a body of new work which combines the natural and virtual worlds in various juxtopsositions and through varied frames/lenses/audible spaces. In 2024, I have an exhibition at the Shoalhaven Regional gallery where I am looking at the aesthetics of modular synthesisers as wall works, investivating the interface as a portal to alternate realities. I am also working with local artists/musicians and performers in the natural environment, looking for nuances in the way the landscape can influence performance presence. For 2025, I am planning a new robotic performance installation at the University of Technology Sydney gallery, the idea expands on previous robotic works but involves a single robot surrounded by sound devices. The robot’s movement and proximity to the wall based sound devices acts as a compositsional tool for the live performance. In this context the robot becomes a type of conductor of a musical performance ensemble. By then, I expect there to be accessible AI for the robot to converse with the audience in a poetic way.

What advice would you give to your younger self? (when you were just starting out as an artist)
Don’t Click here, Click here for the Plug-in, and don’t get too clicky.

Wade Marynowsky, The Ghosts of Roller Disco, TEI2020 Arts Track Exhibition, Tin Sheds Gallery, Sydney 2020.

Recent publications
Book Chapter in Cultural Robotics: Social Robots and Their Emergent Cultural Ecologies.

Marynowsky, W., Knowles, J.,Bown, O., Fersuson, S. (2023).  Sonic Robotics: Musical Genres as Platforms for Understanding Robotic Performance as Cultural Events, Cultural Robotics: Social Robots and Their Emergent Cultural Ecologies, (pp. 219-235). Cham: Springer International Publishing.

Wade’s website