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Future/Pets @ Airspace 2023

Solo exhibition, April 2023, Airspace Projects, Marrickville, Sydney, Australia

Nestlings, 2023, faux fur, glass eyes, polyfill, 21 cm x 77cm x 33cm

This exhibition explores reciprocal care labours and the creepy-cute potentials of robot pets. Through soft sculpture and robotic interventions in vintage teddies, Megan Catherine Rose creates an enchanting and cursed speculative world.

Robot pets are an emerging form of technology for homes and care centres. In Australia, robot cats and dogs are providing comfort to those who hold them, stroke their fur and feel their soft ‘breathing’. For some, there is an uncanny experience of the animal in these robots, their gaze, form and movement evoking a sense of dread. These robots form part of a larger body of work in engineering and design, famous examples including PARO the seal and AIBO the dog. This exhibition presents a range of works that encourage contact between artwork and audience. Through watchfulness and care, audiences are encouraged to form their own relationships with the creatures here. Many of the works reconfigure the cultural icon of the teddy, bringing to the fore the role toy making plays in facilitating intimacies in pet robots. Some of the found teddies used here are aged with a patina from decades of care labour. Their bodies present a sentimental and soft world, resonating with the ghosts of intimacies past.

Spider baby, 2022, mohair, glass eyes, polyfill, found toy pram, 30cm x 42cm x 42cm

Nestled in a rusting toy pram and wreathed in light, Spider Baby peers curiously at the viewer. Future pet? Or future threat?

Brush me, faux fur, polyfill, pine, 67 cm x 67 cm x 16 cm

To interact with this work, choose one of the brushes on the stand and groom the sculpture on the wall. Allow your mind to wander as you trace patterns in its fur. Pet grooming is considered a moment of bonding between animal and human. In this work I imagine future technologies that draw on this intimacy as a form of reciprocal care therapy.

Encounter, 2022, robot, faux fur, camera lenses, polyfill, 52cm x 120 cm x 30cm

A seal robot holds the gaze of its future self.  PARO is a zoomorphic care robot used to care for and gently watch over patients with dementia. At first glance it appears to be a stuffed toy, concealing state of the art technologies that captured the world’s imagination 20 years ago. Here I have made PARO’s future iteration through tracing its surface, and then exaggerating its features using traditional toy making techniques. Future PARO’s concealed cameras are displaced, and are instead inserted into the sculpture’s eye sockets, drawing attention to the technology that powers its illusion of life.  

I see you, 2022, 50cm x 31cm x 51cm

I see you facilitates contact between toy bear and human. In this work, I imagine a future where old toys are repurposed as future robot pets. Affixed to the front of the bear is a facial recognition camera, through which the bear holds the viewers gaze. Through artificial intelligence, this care is amplified to include uncanny watchfulness. As a techno-zoomorphic hybrid, the old world of teddy making converges with new technology.

Terrarium, 2023, found teddies, motors, 65cm x 40cm x 40cm

Abandoned bears, encrusted in grime and dust are entombed in a case of glass. Their chests rise and fall with mechanized breath. These motors are currently used in pet robots to comfort the holder. For these bears, however, time and air is running out.

Photography by Shane Rozario and Airspace Projects.

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