Prehysterical Machine

An interactive robotic art installation by
Bill Vorn
Montréal (Québec) Canada
© 2002



This project is part of a larger research program on the Aesthetics of Artificial Behaviors and is very much inspired of a previous work based on the Misery of the Machines (Bill Vorn, LP Demers, La Cour des Miracles, 1997). It is conceived on the principle of deconstruction, suggesting dysfunctional, absurd and deviant behaviors through a functional machine. It operates on a dual-level process expressing the paradoxal nature of Artificial Life.

The first prototype of the Hysterical Machine (renamed Pre-Hysterical Machine) has been presented at the Sentient Circuitry show at the Walter Philips Galery (Banff) from June 10 to July 26, 2002, the Fundacion Telefonica kiosk at Arco (Madrid, Spain) from February 12 to 18, 2003, and at the FILE 2004 festival (Sao Paulo, Brazil), from Nov. 23 to Dec. 12, 2004. We are actually building six more machines inspired by the prehysterical prototype that will be incorporated into a larger scale environment.

The Prehysterical Machine has a spherical body and eight arms made of aluminum tubing. It has a sensing system, a motor system and a control system that functions as an autonomous nervous system (entirely reactive). The machine is suspended from the ceiling and its arms are actuated by pneumatic valves and cylinders. Pyroelectric sensors allow the robot to detect the presence of viewers in the nearby environment. It reacts to the viewers according to the amount of stimuli it receives. The perceived emergent behaviors of this machine engender a multiplicity of interpretations based on single dynamic pattern of events.

The aim of this project is to induce empathy of the viewer towards a "character" which is nothing more than an articulated metal structure. The strength of the simulacra is emphasized by perverting the perception of the creature, which is neither animal nor human, carried through the inevitable instinct of anthropomorphism and projection of our internal sensations, a reflex triggered by any phenomenon that challenges our senses.




• SMARt 06 symposium
(Bremen, Germany)
From June 13 to 16, 2006

• Galerija Kapelica
(Ljubljana, Slovenia)
From May 9 to 30, 2006

• Arborescence 05 festival
(Aix-en-Provence, France)
From Sept. 29 to Oct. 9, 2005

• VAE9 festival
(Lima, Peru)
From Aug. 25 to Sept. 25, 2005

• FILE 2004 festival
(Sao Paulo, Brazil)
From Nov. 23 to Dec. 12, 2004

• Arco 03 (Fundacion Telefonica)
(Madrid, Spain)
From Feb. 12 to 18, 2003

• Sentient Circuitry exhibition, Walter Philips Gallery
(Banff, Canada)
From June 10 to July 26, 2002




High Resolution Pictures


Prehysterical Machine in the EART studio, 2.3 MB, TIFF format, 300 dpi, 2048 x 1536


Prehysterical Machine in the EART studio, 1.6 MB, TIFF format, 300 dpi, 2048 x 1536


Prehysterical Machine in the EART studio, 2.1 MB, TIFF format, 300 dpi, 2048 x 1536

QuickTime Video


Prehysterical Machine at the Walter Philips Gallery (Banff), 7.6 MB, QuickTime format, 320 x 240, 1:49 min.

YouTube Video


Prehysterical Machine at the Walter Philips Gallery (Banff)

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