Hysterical Machines

An interactive robotic art installation by
Bill Vorn
Montréal (Québec) Canada
© 2006



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 Prehysterical Machine) has been presented at the Sentient Circuitry show at the Walter Philips Gallery (Banff) in 2002, the Fundacion Telefonica kiosk at Arco (Madrid, Spain) in 2003, and at the FILE 2004 festival (Sao Paulo, Brazil). Since then we have built ten more machines inspired by the prehysterical prototype that are part of a larger scale environment (Hysterical Machines). This piece can be presented in any type of configuration, from one single machine up to eleven of them. We have also built a giant version of this robot: the Mega Hysterical Machine.

Each Hysterical 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). Some machines are suspended from the ceiling and their arms are actuated by pneumatic valves and cylinders. Pyroelectric sensors allow the robots to detect the presence of viewers in the nearby environment. They react to the viewers according to the amount of stimuli they receive. The perceived emergent behaviors of these machines 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 characters which are nothing more than articulated metal structures. The strength of the simulacra is emphasized by perverting the perception of the creatures, which are neither animals nor humans, carried through the inevitable instinct of anthropomorphism and projection of our internal sensations, a reflex triggered by any phenomenon that challenges our senses.




• Bains Numériques, 10th Digital Arts Biennale
(Enghien-les-Bains, France)
From June 13 to 17, 2018

• Age of Catastrophe, Video Pool
(Winnipeg, Canada)
From November 13 to December 12, 2015

• Noviembre Electrónico Festival
(Buenos Aires, Argentina)
From November 13 to 23, 2014

• Gdansk Center for Contemporary Art Laznia 2
(Gdansk, Poland)
From May 9 to July 13, 2014

• Soft Metal, Centre des arts d'Enghien-les-Bains
(Enghien-les-Bains, France)
From January 22 to March 23, 2014

• La Nuit Industrielle, Théâtre des Salins
(Martigues, France)
August 31, 2013

• 404 Festival
(Rosario, Argentina)
From August 28 to 31, 2013

• Open Score exhibition, USF Contemporary Art Museum
(Tampa, Florida)
From January 18 to March 9, 2013

• Explorations Numériques
(Quebec City)
From June 19 to September 3, 2012

• C2 MTL
From May 22 to 26, 2012

• 11th Havana Biennale, Open Score exhibition
(Havana, Cuba)
From May 11 to June 11, 2012

• Wood Street Galleries
(Pittsburgh, USA)
From April 29 to June 19, 2011

• Les nouveaux monstres
(Toulouse, France)
From February 25 to March 10, 2011

• Emoção Art.ficial 5.0 (Sao Paulo Biennial of Art & Technology)
(Sao Paulo, Brazil)
From June 30 to September 5, 2010

• Les nouveaux monstres
(Saint-Nazaire, France)
From June 18 to August 15, 2010

• Amber 09 Festival
(Istanbul, Turkey)
From November 6 to 15, 2009

• Inside [Art & Science]
(Lisbon, Portugal)
From September 24 to November 24, 2009

• Lille 3000 (Les nouveaux monstres)
(Lille, France)
From September 18 to November 8, 2009

• Factory (Museum of Bat Yam)
(Tel Aviv, Israel)
From May 25 to September 26, 2009

• Exit 2009 Festival
(Créteil, France)
From March 26 to April 6, 2009

• Via 2009 Festival
(Maubeuge, France)
From March 11 to 21, 2009

• MOVE Digital Art Show
(A Coruña, Spain)
From November 13 to 16, 2008

• International Arts Festival
(Salamanca, Spain)
From May 15 to June 14, 2008

• Bios 4 exhibition, Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporaneo
(Sevilla, Spain)
From May 3 to September 9, 2007

• Utopiales 2006 festival
(Nantes, France)
From November 2 to 5, 2006

• STRP 2006 festival
(Eindhoven, the Netherlands)
From March 24 to 26, 2006




High Resolution Pictures


Hysterical Machines
Hysterical01.tif.zip, 10.3 MB, TIFF format, 300 dpi, 1760 x 2524


Hysterical Machines
Hysterical02.tif.zip, 11 MB, TIFF format, 300 dpi, 3008 x 2000


Hysterical Machines
Hysterical03.tif.zip, 7.2 MB, TIFF format, 300 dpi, 2420 x 1652


Hysterical Machines
Hysterical04.tif.zip, 14.7 MB, TIFF format, 300 dpi, 3008 x 2000


Hysterical Machines
Hysterical05.tif.zip, 8.6 MB, TIFF format, 300 dpi, 3008 x 2000

QuickTime Movie


Hysterical Machines in the Hexagram Black Box
Hysterical.mov, 126.6 MB, QuickTime format, 720 x 480, 2:07 min.

YouTube Movie


Hysterical Machines in the Hexagram Black Box

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