Ready \ Set \ Fulfill is an ongoing collaborative artwork between Andrew Luk x Samuel Swope.
2021. de Sarthe Gallery.
FPV drone racing x performance x installation.
publications: de Sarthe. Frieze. Art Asia Pacific. Art Review. Artomity. Cobo Social.
An artists issued artist statement for the artwork can be read here:
The internet of our future, in attending to our immediate desires, will lead to a de-accumulation of stuff via higher efficiency and with it will come an increased frequency of consumption and waste output. The fulfilment center of today is a vague location for outsourced inventory and logistics management in the e-commerce process. It involves flotillas of cargo ships, fleets of trains, planes and trucks, armies of robots, and workers in a type of non-stop coordinated unison typical of an insect colony. Tomorrow this colony will be automated and more rapid, and buildings like Amazon Fulfilment Centers will be as iconic as skyscrapers; fully automated architectural wonders, alive with hive-like buzzing and whirring as drones of all sizes land and take off from the thousands of landing pads bolted into the sides of the structures.
A swarm of drones crossing the harbour gently zip across the sky in front of a waning sunset, ensuring your order will arrive in minutes.
In 1675, the scientist Robert Hooke recovered “the true manner of arches for building,” which he summarized with a single phrase: “As hangs the flexible line, so but inverted will stand the rigid arch.” This axiom was used by bees for millennia to build their hives. Each bee grips onto the next, forming a wriggling rope of furry bodies attached to a tree branch at both ends and dangling in the shape of an arch at the middle - forming the catenary curve, the ideal outline for the outer walls of their new hive. Using similar techniques, Gaudi’s upside-down models made of string and fabric accurately determined the curvature of archways and buttresses before construction began. Mies Van der Rohe’s Honeycomb (1921), the first glass skyscraper office building in the world is not coincidentally named. At the time, man-made beehive boxes with panes of glass through which one could view the bees at work were already common. Architecture’s mimicry of hives and honeycombs is an extension of its socio-historical legacy rooted in its ability to impact society; in this context, to create idealistic, utopian, hive-like societies. Le Corbusier’s call for “Architecture or Revolution’’ states that architecture would be a sufficient substitute to social upheaval, but also suggests that new society with new architecture is unavoidable. Japanese Metabolist Architecture and to a lesser degree 1970s Archigram, in a similar vein, act as predecessors to the Amazon Vertical Fulfilment Center, consisting of manufactured, repeatable, irreducible units that are “plugged in.” Form is determined only by function.
In position, arms extended, fingers on controls, eyes absorbing screens: the human being embodies the soaring drone. The mind and the machine are in sync. Movement and data feedback are rendered virtual due to the remote nature of drone operations. And so, the conglomerate, the hive-like Center, the operators, the code, and the semi-autonomous busy drones work together, a hybrid of sorts, to prioritize and fulfill your order. As your package drops gently from the sky, a fantastical techno-utopia promising efficiency and fulfillment begins.
There is an intensity at which technology progressively replaces and augments human beings. In 1977, philosopher Paul Virilio coined the term ‘dromology’, defined as “the science (or logic) of speed.” He compares the activity of racing with society at large, in that what is faster dominates what is slower. And thus theorizing the compulsion to accelerate. In Drone Art, Professor Thomas Stubblefield cites Virilio’s Dromoscopy, or the Ecstasy of Enormities, “since [his] diagnosis forty years ago, not only has the windshield come to merge with the computer screen via ‘head-up displays’ (HUDs) of contemporary automobiles, but so has the screen itself reproduced depthless experience of ‘speed pictures’ in the form of racing simulators and first-person shooters.”
Competitive arousal as well as the desire to experience flight are both related to our human fascination to overcome our mortal earthly bodies. First person view, or FPV, drone racing culture tends to suggest that the feeling is as if one’s own body is flying. Despite being remotely separated from the drone, the VR goggles provide a window of endless ‘speed pictures’ that “confuse ‘ocular reality’ and its instantaneous, mediated representation.” As this new technological sport evolves and expands towards mass appeal, a question arises: Is the colosseum that normalizes and decontextualizes the use of drones as aerial racers also an accelerator that will in due course affect society at large?
Ready\Set\Fulfill uses materials that engage with the imagery on which the current emerging technotopian promise resides. A future of ethereal information clouds, radiant beams of light speed, and transparent air invisibly saturated with signals. Forms take shape as connective tissue, referencing a historical legacy of myths from past hive-based utopias of which the Amazon Vertical Fulfilment Center blueprint is the most recent. Simultaneously, the sculptural work also doubles as an FPV drone racecourse, borrowing the infrastructural language from the emerging e-sport, thereby subjecting itself to both human and machine vision. With each lap around the course, the vision blurs: notions of art, sport, utopia, warfare, and entertainment begin to fuse. The mead as well as the ambiance of the drone is intoxicating. We are in it. The trajectory is total.
- Andrew Luk x Samuel Swope
1. Ramirez, J. A. (2000). The beehive metaphor: From Gaudi to Le Corbusier. London: Reaktion.
2. Stubblefield, T. (2020). Drone Art: The everywhere war as medium. Oakland, CA: The University of California Press. (p.121)
3. Armitage, J. (2000). Paul Virilio: From modernism to hypermodernism and beyond. London: Sage. (p.109)
Threatening Birds & Beasts:
2021. series (x11). Drop Site Dialog. Arc Seconds. Color Coding. Exit the Host. Grapes. Intermodal Evoloutions. Payload Perception. Plurality of Whiskers. Snapshot. Trackable Path. Waves.
acrylic paint, engraved acrylic glass, packaging foam.
The Threatening Birds & Beasts series is comprised of engraved sheets of acrylic glass embedded within customized frames made of black packaging foam. The series explores the tension between drones and humanity, AI and our own behavioral tendencies. The works are produced through a mixture of AI generated processes, as well as the artist’s own touch. It begins with research for drone [unmanned aerial vehicle] related patents filed across the world.“ more information available from de Sarthe Gallery.
2016 - ____
performance x installation.
sculptural drones (2016): sculptural drones: custom ABS vacuum forms embedded with drone technology, custom software and hardware, lithium polymer batteries.
video. archival prints mounted on aluminum.
Floating Room is an art x technology installation that engages with issues on drones, domestication, and the non-human. Presented as a compositional aviary for domestic things, each floating product in Floating Room is a semi-autonomous airborne whimsy created by a hybrid of featherweight, plastic forms merged with drone technology. The floating products maintain their conventional function while also aerodynamically traversing their airspace, e.g. a lamp can fly and emit light. Sensors and parameters in their program define activity; states that change from static rest to suspending against gravity. With semi-autonomous decision making they may hover, drift, change altitude, switch flight time, and finally sometimes crash; crash being an integral accident. Within this systematized room, floating products cause dynamic aerial interactions with other domestic things. They may trim a houseplant or blow papers and pages in books all the while stirring up domestic aromas. With their capability they render the non-human.
Every hour a performer enters the room, called the Floating Room Keeper. The keeper’s actions include: cleaning up the mess and caring for the floating products - mending their wounds, refilling their energy, and arranging them. On every occurrence there is dynamic change; an indeterminable amount of composition, airflow, accelerated motion, virtual volumes, and space-time relationships.
Floating Room is an experimental and physical message that folds satire with contemporary discourses regarding drone and flight technologies, novel approaches to product delivery, and smart homes. Drones are effectively employed in both private and public sectors. Sharing space with this technology normalizes our relationship to drones. Floating Room continues the decontextualization of popular knowledge that UAV’s are for violent militant use and suggests ludic narratives. Enabling domestic things with the ability to semi-autonomously fly and teaching them to follow certain behaviors, in essence, is domesticating our products.
The first iteration of Floating Room was exhibited at Chronus Art Center, Shanghai. 2016.
2020 - ____
performance x installation.
(sculptural drone) Liphium 1, 2, & 3 (2021):
| street light, mechanism and electric cable.
| performance patent engraving.
de Sarthe Gallery.
Hunter/Killer. KUK Galerie.
Liphium is a sculptural drone for a performative installation. A technological hybrid, Liphium, mimics its form and behaviors from insects and commercial drones. Airborne, it understands itself spatially according to light using bio-phototaxis-mimetic. The work begins with an Amazon patent #US9387928B1. The patent describes a technological implementation for docking drones on top of street lights in urban environments. The patent is another plan for smart street lights, which are growing in numbers to collect a wide range of data. Pull down the light; the performance narrative suggests a smart street light has been pulled down in an act of defiance. The light, facing upwards, rocks slowly on the ground by pulling on its own electric cord; a beacon. Liphium, once airborne, navigates towards the street light, following its disposition to dock, yet it is unable to do so due to the orientation of the light. Liphium is thus left with the behavior, a moth to a flame.
Each Liphium created evolves in some way. After performing, they are archived on a light panel as taxidermy.
dried wheat, high density foam, mirror, ceiling fans, speakers, translucent net, projector, natural plants, quadcopter electronics 4k video, stereo | 00:07:30 loop.
[dis]locate. Chronus Art Center.
Ecotone. Design Society
There is space between two. Not a line, but a void, an airy pocket dividing and merging, a place for the imagination and the spirit, an atmospheric true-fiction. And so it goes, signal the Ecotone, for in this aero-habitat there are two pairs of zones (the natural and the airborne technological meeting the physical and the digital). A net slices through the dioramic dimension capturing the energies from the combined ecologies, revealing an aero-craft species.
Ecotone is a bipartite story: It is about an odd aero-habitat and encountering there an evolved all natural-technical flying hybrid / It is about a mortal who went to nature, mixed plant and electronic constituents to create a life flying and then captured the new aerocraft creature into an atmospheric true-fiction.
Updraft, updraft and Last Breath
Updraft, updraft: customized paper, wind, industrial blower fans, wood, wax, acrylic glass, fluorescent light, net, electronic circuits and hardware.
Last Breath: acrylic glass, paint, wood, RGB LED, net, thread, electronic circuit, custom software, hardware.
The Garden. K11 Art Foundation
Updraft, updraft and Last Breath move back and forth between composed moments of air and light, when one system is [asleep] the other is [awake]. In Updraft, updraft the perceptible volume is a life-like swarm due to air and accelerated motion. Multitudes of simulated maple seeds (paper simulacrums) flutter in aerodynamic logic from the sequence of governed airstreams. Last Breath is an abstraction of the last moment of sunlight and the conditional green ray.
Updraft, updraft and Last Breath are nature as hyperreal. Their hyperreal form is akin to a well-groomed garden and whimsical spirit, and within their particular systematic artifice there is an assumption that through perception their created technological-natural hybridity can provide more reality than nature.
The maple seed copies in Updraft, updraft mimic the wind dispersal flight behaviour of their natural counterpart. Made only with paper and a laser cutter, [awake] these paper replications come alive - rising, twirling, and chattering - moved by controlled airstreams enclosed in a wooden habitat. The built environment is an inverted pyramid suspended just above ground (cantilevered from a corner). The pyramidal form amplifies noise from the seeds and white noise from the air. An array of fluorescent lights illuminate the enclosure. [asleep]
[awake] Resting on the ground, atop a sheet of clear glass, Last Breath emits a warm orange glow. Wrapped in mesh windscreen, the horizontal line of orange light slowly, subtly, and silently changes intensity before exhaling its final moment; a flash of emerald green. [asleep]
Updraft, updraft and Last Breath define experiential states of aerial flux. Combined they create a system of order and not.
| apparatus | paper, aluminium, rubber wheels, brushless DC motors, digital and analog electronic parts/circuits, LIPO and DC batteries, aluminium tripods, hardware, pulley belt | 10 m x (variable)
| short film (Performance June 5th, 2012, Hong Kong) | HD video, stereo | 00:16:26
| edition | laser engraved tin container, handmade insert, digitally printed DVD, laser engraved metal flash drive, master file and additional background imagery | HD video, stereo | 00:16:26 & variable time
| drawing | pencil on archival paper, framed | 122 x 96 cm
| drawing | set of 4 | pencil on archival paper, framed | 34 x 30 cm
| edition 2017 | set of 2 archival prints mounted on aluminum | 51 x 34 cm
ta-ta-ta-ta-ta→ is a guerrilla performance with urban behaviors. The work looks into the ritual of flyer distribution in Hong Kong. Such phenomenon can be reduced to a three part formula: Input, obstruction by the distributor; Process, the confronted decides between engagement and avoidance; Output, action. This public performance challenges social reflexes by replacing the cue with the ta-ta-ta-ta-ta→ apparatus in everyday interactions. Assembled full length, the 10 meter handmade apparatus can launch 30 paper airplanes in 7 seconds.
The public location chosen for the happening was Fo Tan, Hong Kong, an industrial district where workers flock towards their jobs. On the morning of June 5, 2012, the apparatus length was shortened for a covert operative. Flying and descending paper airplanes, which were rapidly launched for just over 45 minutes, met the workers ascending the valley towards their daily job.
The choreographed rooftop performance and the actions recorded at street level were documented through video. The footage was composed into a 16 minute short, which tells the story and experience of the social and spatial intervention, ta-ta-ta-ta-ta→.
| edition | handmade case, edition stamp, digital print booklet & DVD, digital master file on disc | SD video, stereo | 00:02:35
2010 | remote control helicopter parts, stainless steel wire mesh, paper, glue, rubberbands, acrylic and spray paint, banana residue | dimensions variable
drawing | pencil on archival paper | 22 x 20 cm
Banana ‘copter is a sculptural banana drone. It is a technological-natural hybrid made with helicopter drone parts and ample amounts of banana residue, and it was created for BANANA MISSION a monkey behavioral study. BANANA MISSION is an interspecies narrative about the intersection of technology and close non-human primates. BANANA MISSION was filmed in a variety of locations around Hong Kong. Starting with the banana rising from the produce section of the market, it travels through the city to Kam Shan Country Park (aka Monkey Mountain), a place where feral rhesus macaques live. It is at Kam Shan where Banana ‘copter and the monkeys meet. What the results would be was unknown, but once captured, the video was edited to best reflect human perception of the recorded behaviors. This work plays with the intersection of technology and the non-human, and through an anthropomorphic lens explores first encounters.
An ethological approach that studies the feral rhesus macaques and their behavior with the flying banana at greater length in order to fully understand the impact that the technological-hybird has in their community was not a concerning methodology. The artwork is more of an intervention than a behavioral study. The title “a monkey behavioral study” was utilized in order to give the artwork a semi-scientific aura. Intentionally, an imaginative approach was chosen over scientific fact. In this way, the story unfolds based on conceptualized initial reactions; At first, the rhesus macaques reacted to the flying banana with collective fear, and after the flying banana crashed, the beta male macaque first got closest to the alien element to prove himself, followed by the alpha male who went nearest to prove dominance, and subsequently appears disappointed upon questioning the flying banana.