BRISTOL, UK.- Arnolfini presents Super toys: On Play, Affective Machines and Object Relations, on view through January 18, 2009. The Supertoys exhibition and events programme at Arnolfini explores toys, affective machines, and play. Artists, technologists, children and adults examine how toys operate as 'transitional objects' in allowing feelings to be carried between the human subject and external objects. The exhibition also explores the idea of reciprocal relationships with intelligent toys and robots, and our related hopes and fears. In the science of Artificial Intelligence a basic question remains, 'Will we succeed in building robots that think and feel like we do?' This in turn raises questions about the nature of emotion and whether we can replicate human affect in machines, or whether robots can develop their own 'feelings' independently.
Supertoys makes reference to Brian Aldiss' short story 'Super-Toys Last All Summer Long'. Like in the Aldiss story, in which an android boy thinks himself to be real and is programmed to love his adopted mother, playing with toys expresses the complex interrelations between humans and objects or machines, reality and fantasy, what it means to care for something, and our inability to love. In many ways toys appear to play with us.
Participants in the exhibition include Chris Cunningham, Natalie Jeremijenko, Kahve Society, Philippe Parreno and the Unmask Group. Natalie Jeremijenko's Robotic Geese and Ducks which will live in the galleries for most of the exhibition but also be taken out to interact with local geese around the Harbourside, exploring issues of inter and intra-species interaction. Supertoys also features The Writer by Philippe Parreno, a video work depicting an antique boy automata appearing to have a life of its own, scratching out the enigmatic words: What do you believe, your eyes or my words?
Resembling a mutant Toys R Us, the exhibition will include an experimental toy factory section, created by Kahve Society, a group of artists and educators, who have co-developed Supertoys with children from Bristol and London, having led the first highly successful Supertoy project with a school group in January 2006. Discussions and workshops exploring toys, work and play, literature, object-relations, marketing and design, will run throughout the exhibition.
Supertoys is the third in the Concept Store series of projects at Arnolfini, exploring the realms of marketing, design and experience economy. The series looks at the role of design and experience staging used in contemporary strategies for engaging the public, integrating the spheres of art and consumerism.