Grace State Machines

A robotic art performance by
Bill Vorn, Emma Howes, Jonathan Villeneuve
Montréal (Québec) Canada
© 2007

Produced with the help of
The Canada Council for the Arts
Le Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec



Grace State Machines is a Robotic Art performance project. The name of the project is inspired by a virtual “state of grace” that could be expressed by automatons and other finite state machines.

Through this project, we want to explore the close relationship between the real physical human body and machine body. We want to express the inner perceptions of both entities and how they intertwine, blend, mingle and become blurred as they interact and exchange in an intimate dialog between the organic and the artefact.

The show is a twenty-seven minute stage performance involving solely a human performer and a machine. Both are linked via a high-end motion capture system and a set of biofeedback sensors and interfaces. By monitoring the human body movements and internal states and transposing this information to the robot body, we aim to establish a dynamic and symbiotic relationship between the actors. Both eventually blend into a single organism, where flesh, bones, wires and tubes become a whole individual body.

The robotic machine is built as an abstract shape and is composed of actuated sections similar to flight simulator platforms and capable of producing very complex movements. The machine will sometimes react to the performer’s body movements, sometimes move on its own behavior and induce a response from the performer. We aim to induce empathy from the viewers towards a character which is nothing more than an articulated metal structure. The strength of the simulacra is emphasized by opposing the personalities of the performer and the machine, by subverting the normal perspective of human communication.

By this project, we want to question the notions of physical perception, body expression and personal identity, and address kinaesthesis not only as an internal proprioceptive mechanism but as a potential exterior phenomenon actualized through the robotic extension of the body. This encounter between the living and the non-living evokes the dichotomic correlation between the mind and the body, between the self and the other, between the real and the imaginary.




• Athens Video Art Festival
(Athens, Greece)
May 16, 2009

• Elektra-Lab, Usine C
(Montreal, Canada)
October 30, 2008

• Paris-Québec, Maison des Métallos
(Paris, France)
September 25, 2008

• 404 Festival
(Trieste, Italy)
May 31, 2008

• Subtle Technologies 2007
(Toronto, Canada)
May 25, 2007

• Robo-coop, Nuit Blanche (Usine C)
(Montreal, Canada)
March 3, 2007




High Resolution Pictures


Grace State Machines, 13.6 MB, TIFF format, 300 dpi, 3008 x 2000


Grace State Machines, 11.7 MB, TIFF format, 300 dpi, 3008 x 2000


Grace State Machines, 12.2 MB, TIFF format, 300 dpi, 2000 x 3008

QuickTime Movies


Grace State Machines in the Hexagram Black Box, 147.4 MB, QuickTime format, 472 x 270, 5:03 min.

YouTube Movies


Grace State Machines in the Hexagram Black Box

Grace State Machines at Usine C - Elektra Lab (excerpt 1)


Grace State Machines at Usine C - Elektra Lab (excerpt 2)


Grace State Machines at Usine C - Elektra Lab (excerpt 3)



Grace State Machines at Usine C -Elektra Lab (excerpt 4)


Grace State Machines at Usine C - Elektra Lab (excerpt 5)

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