Stèle 01

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

Produced with the help of
Concordia University (FRDP Program)



Stèle 01 is part of a trilogy entitled The Artificial Death Series. This installation project is based upon Artificial Life concepts and simulacra and the age-old fascination of the public for automatons. The cybernetic stele is composed of a sensing network (presence detection sensors), a robotic sculpture, a digital video projection system and a computerized matrix screen.

A humanoid robotic statue stands up on an aluminum and plexiglas stele, covering its face with its hands. Video images representing human death are projected on the stele's surface which is in fact a mosaic of smaller revolving plates acting sometimes as screens sometimes as mirrors. When viewers are approaching by the stele, the robot statue removes its hands from its face, spreads its arms, and changes itself into a machine. The video screen starts to move and images are deconstructed and morphed; an impossible life takes over this artificial momument.

Inspired by mortuary steles from the Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris, this piece aims to evoque the undissociable dichotomy between the real and the virtual, life and death, movement and inertia, men and machines.

The goal of this project is to build an interactive installation evoquing through a mortuary stele the passage from reality to virtuality. It is composed of 3 main elements: a robotic statue, a computer-controlled video screen and an interactive sensing system.

The robotic statue is made of aluminum and is about 1.25m high. It is articulated by a set of 10 pneumatic cylinders. These cylinders are triggered by a computer using the Max programming software. The statue is a complex humanoid-looking robot that is able to move its hands and arms and that is able to transform itself into a more abstract object.

Video images are projected onto the surface of the stele. The video screen is a matrix of 128 smaller plates revolving with the help of stepper motors. Each side of a plate is either a white screen or a reflecting mirror.Video images are then animated by the overall movement of these plates. A computer controls the rotation of each plate and generates shapes and patterns using cellular logic as programming basis.

The installation uses pyroelectric sensors as presence sensing system. 32 sensors are located around the periphery of the stele and 64 sensors are integrated in the matrix screen. This system detects when viewers are approaching the stele and when viewers move their hands on top of the screen's surface. A custom interface sends the sensing signals (on/off) to the Max control software.




• EMAF 02 festival
(Osnabrück, Germany)
From Apr. 24 to May 20, 2002




High Resolution Pictures


Stele 01 at Hexagram Concordia, 4.3 MB, TIFF format, 300 dpi, 1759 x 1184


Stele 01 at Hexagram Concordia, 4.3 MB, TIFF format, 300 dpi, 1754 x 1179


Stele 01 at Hexagram Concordia, 4.4 MB, TIFF format, 300 dpi, 1756 x 1176

QuickTime Video


Stele 01 at Hexagram Concordia and EMAF 2002 Festival, 9.9 MB, QuickTime format, 320 x 240, 2:13 min.

YouTube Video


Stele 01 at Hexagram Concordia and EMAF 2002 Festival

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