Ricardo Miranda Zúñiga

Structural Patterns

Reflections on Art, Technology and Society

Marc Bohlen: Scientist, Artist and Techno Interventionist

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July 10, 2005
Marc Bohlen applies a dadaist twist to technology – he questioning the common uses or expectations of technology by inventing technologies that are applied to seemingly purposeless activities, but in doing so delves into deep philosophical questions concerning human nature.

I recall walking into Marc Bohlen’s studio in 1999 and encountering three chickens and a robot in a large chicken coop.  As Marc explained he was seeing if the chickens and robots could happily c-oexist.  The project is titled Advanced Perception and as Marc puts it

“This project was an early experiment in mixing machines and animal societies. Three chickens, Rhode Island Red hens, were held in a spacious cage together with a mobile robot for 60 days…  A gala omelet dinner was held in an art gallery where a world-famous chef, Rudy Stanish, created omelets according to his own secret recipes with the eggs from these chickens.

It was left to the visitors to ponder where the advanced perception was to be found, whether it was in the machine vision system guiding the robot in the cage, the chickens’ perception modalities (in some ways superior to our own), or in the idea of advanced/alternate modes of perception necessary to contemplate solutions for a future in which our technologies kindly intertwine with the world of simpler creatures.”


At the time Marc was pursuing a dual masters in Fine Arts and Robotic Vision at Carnegie Mellon University.  Since then Marc has continued along the same trajectory, inventing new high level technologies that are placed in creative situations, works shared and respected by both art and science communities.  The same approach of applying hi-tech to nature to question our assumptions of science and nature is used in more recent commission.  Unseen, 2002-2003 uses machine vision to monitor the changes in a garden, once again to best explain the project, I’ll quote Marc:

“UNSEEN is a nature interpretation center with second thoughts. Set in the Reford Gardens of Grand-Métis on the Gaspé Peninsula of eastern Québec, the multi-camera real time machine vision system observes select plants indigenous to the region… Using data analysis and classification techniques, the system searches for instances of these plants. Short texts depict factual knowledge on the select plants. Over the course of the summer, however, the flavour of the texts changes.”


In another recent and ongoing project, Marc attempts to use whistling as a form of interaction with computers:

“U.W.M is an investigation into the vexing problem of human-machine interface design. Whistling is much closer to the phoneme-less signal primitives compatible with digital machinery than the messy domain of spoken language. As opposed to pushing machines into engaging humans in spoken language, U.W.M. suggests we meet on a middle ground. Whistling occurs across all languages and cultures.”

Marc uses artificial intelligence to question the nature of information, perception and knowledge.  To view other works by Marc, please visit his portfolio site:


Written by ricardo

October 28th, 2006 at 7:48 pm

Posted in art_technology