Robotics Art Residency

Project website:

The GRASP Lab at The School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the Weitzman School of Design collaborated on a Robotic Art Residency program that brought together faculty and students to explore the use of robotic technologies in addressing contemporary social, cultural, and environmental challenges.

The Robotics Art Residency was awarded a 2020 Collaborative Provosts Interdisciplinary Grant from the Sachs Program for Arts Innovation and was sponsored by the GRASP Lab, Kodlab and The Weitzman School of Design.

Three artists spent four weeks at the GRASP Lab at PERCH, during which each developed a creative project with resources offered by GRASP and the Department of Fine Arts and Design. The residents received mentorship from Penn faculty and interacted with students across the campus through a student engagement platform. During each residency, the artist had a desk within Kodlab within the GRASP Lab at PERCH and was paired with a PhD mentor. Diedra Krieger collaborated with Professor Koditschek and his lab to set up technical mentors for each of the artists.

The outcome of each residency culminated in a group exhibition at the University City Arts League and a digital form of dissemination (i.e., website, and possible subsequent publication) which allowed them to share the results within the broader community. Angela McQuillan mentored curation of the culminating exhibition, from meeting with the artists to laying out the exhibition. 

Participating Artists: Samantha Hensley (March 2022), Nikkita Staggs (April 2022), Kathleen McDermott (June 2022)

Mentors: Kodlab PhD Students Shane Rozen-Levy (March 2022), Wei-Hsi Chen (April 2022), Diego Caporale (June 2022) with ROBO Master’s Student Ethan Musser (June 2022)

The Advisory Committee members for the residency: Simon Kim, Cynthia Sung, Angela McQuillan, Orkan Telhan and Diedra Krieger. While the Robotics Art Residency was conceived by Krieger in collaboration with Orkan Telhan, Laia Mogas-Soldevila replaced Orkan Telhan during his leave of absence during the implementation of the program. 

Exhibition:  Experiments in Robotic Gestures: Samantha Hensley, Nikkita Staggs, Kathleen McDermott
November 21 – December 18, 2022
University City Arts League

This exhibition presents the work of three artists – Samantha Hensley, Nikkita Staggs, and Kathleen McDermott — and the culmination of their residencies at the GRASP (General Robotics Automation, Sensing and Perception) Lab at PERCH in 2022. With a month spent performing multidisciplinary research and experimentation alongside engineers and scientists in robotics, artists were able to enhance their skills while overcoming new technical challenges.  Through investigations into the definition of labor, the relationship of machines with biology, to assembling discarded parts into new fantastical creatures with varying degrees of sentience, these artists examine the possibilities that can exist when art intersects with robotics research.

Humans have created a multitude of automated and responsive machines that have become deeply integrated in our daily lives. Over time these robotic beings have become expressions of humanity in themselves, with traces of physical, intellectual and emotional capabilities that reflects their creators. Experiments in Robotic Gestures explores the social implications of robotics on work, culture and the environment.

Media: and-engineering-check-out-their-exhibit/

Links to student /public engagement platforms: 
Spring 2022: Robotics Art Residency: Sam Hensley, GRASP at PERCH and Weitzman School of Design, “Creature Hour: A Comic Reading and Animatronic Artist Talk

Spring 2022: Robotics Art Residency: Nikkita Staggs, GRASP at PERCH and Weitzman School of Design, “Nature’s Artwork”

Summer 2022: Robotics Art Residency: Kathleen McDermott, GRASP at PERCH and Weitzman School of Design, “Absurdist Electronics: An artist talk and hands-on workshop for considering stranger robotic futures”

Images from the residency: