Corrupted Nature

Art, Art and Installations, Robots

'Dialogue between a priest and a dying man'

For the Lux Gallery’s second show in 1998, Fiddian and Julian created ‘Corrupted Nature’. Two robots enact de Sade’s ‘Dialogue between a priest and a dying man’, an argument about the possibilities of free will and the existence of a Creator. This mechatronic tableau ironically questions our views of technology and the artificial within the natural world.

After the Lux ‘Corrupted Nature’ was exhibited at Tallin Art Hall, Estonia, Sonar festival in Barcelona and at the Roundhouse in London.

Here is an excerpt from Frieze magazine’s review of the show by David Barett:
The final work on show at least recognises some of the problems inherent in cybernetic work. Fiddian Warman and Julian Saunderson’s Corrupted Nature seems to know that it is doing stuff just for the sake of it. A level of self-criticality manifests itself in the sheer absurdity of the scenario: two robots performing the Marquis de Sade’s short play Dialogue Between a Priest and a Dying Man. Briefly, this is an argument over the existence of God and Humanity’s need for excess, yet it is spoken in Stephen Hawking-esque computer voices. A furry bed-type thing (the Dying Man), repents only that he did not give himself up to desire more in his life, while a shiny black box on rails (the Priest), works itself into a tizz over this inversion of the Last Rights. The line ‘I was created by Nature with the keenest of appetites and the strongest of passions and was put on this earth with the sole purpose of placating both by surrendering to them’, sounds strangely reasonable when coming from a furry bed-type thing.

The fact that this work doesn’t convince us that these robots are alive, or dying, is not a problem. In fact, it’s their total lifelessness that is so interesting. Refreshingly, it is aware of its own gimmicks and achieves through ridicule a level of self-awareness that robots won’t manage for at least another 100 years. The artists’ group Soda has just about got that self-awareness – let’s hope they can keep it.