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Link - Article by Zachary Fennell

Behold the automotive sacrificial crash dummies!

You might remember the deeply surreal novel by J.G. Ballard "Crash" (1973) and the similarly haunting movie by David Cronenberg - but David Karave of Crashing Art goes one step further... We know of no other modern artist that uses the crash test dummy as a symbol or device in such haunting and violent installations.

"I see the crash dummy as a symbol of the american obsession with disaster. The dummy itself is always sacrificed, and thus to me, becomes a sacred object. The dummy can sacrifice itself, allowing us to save ourselves"

"The idea was for a robotic crash test dummy family that sacrifices themselves, self destructing, while watching war images and color code threat alert images on the crash robot family's home TV. I saw these dummies as experiencing the vague alerts, and the anxiety and the paranoia that we normally feel as a society, in place of us, and thereby saving us."

"I needed a crash test dummy, so I set about looking for one. The trouble is that crash dummies are extremely sophisticated instruments, with elaborate electronic and sensor components. One dummy will generally cost tens of thousands of dollars. After a year of searching, in 2005, I received a loan from a defense department contractor (ironic, as the artwork is a parody of the HSD color code alert system!) of one H2 adult crash test dummy. I immediately set about making moulds of each body part. I then received a second baby crash test dummy, a Crabbi 12 month model, also on loan, from a crash test facility. I had only one week to create the moulds, which any mould maker will tell you is an incredibly small amount of time. 34 body parts were moulded, and then over the next two years each crash robot body part was re-cast in wax with modifications (such as the mother dummy's breasts, many more human touches in the details, and other mechanical allowances for the future robotic creation to come).

The project has since been supported by renowned playwright Edward Albee, and has been exhibited as a robotic multimedia installation and performance artwork in Montreal, New York, Florida, Tennessee, Colorado and Texas. At the Bonnaroo Festival, the project was pyrotechnic, with the dummy family's heads setting on fire as the alert reached orange/red.

David further says: "Pyrotechnic robotic art is perhaps the broader theme for my creations. There's a long tradition of that, for example, the Survival Research Labs (SRL) in California who do massive, political, pyrotechnic robotic spectacles. My crash test family's robot heads are set on fire at the close of most performances, and SRL is an inspiration."

"Home Automation" project
Artist's parody of the 'Homeland Security Color Code Threat Alert System' sparks controversy

Here is the coverage of the project by Zachary Fennell:

The attendance was 75,000 at this year's Bonnaroo Festival, an annual music and arts festival in Manchester, Tennessee. The Bonnaroo Festival has played host to big name musicians like the Flaming Lips, Tool, and The Police. However, one of the biggest stories to come out of the festival wasn’t any of the bands who played but rather “Home Automation”, a robotic theatre artwork, created by David Karave.

"Home Automation" is an animatronics performance of metal crash test dummies that features pyrotechnics. Karave’s intentions with the piece are to parody Homeland Security’s color-coded advisory system. Two metal crash test dummies and a crash test baby sit on a loveseat watching television. As they watch, news breaks inform us that the alert level is being raised. As the alert level raises the dummies begin to violently shake, eventually bursting into flames.

Ironically, the dummies used in “Home Automation” were molded from actual crash test dummies, used in war exercises by the US Defense Department. David Karave received a loan of the crash test dummies from a defense contractor back in 2005. Karave then molded the loaned dummies to create the robotic sculptures used in “Home Automation”. The dummies are able to react to the alert level changes thanks to a computer interface which allows them to "see" the video based color alert changes, via color recognition programming.

The Homeland Security advisory system parodied by “Home Automation” was implemented in 2002. The system is supposed to communicate to America the current level of safety in the country through five different colors- green, blue, yellow, orange, and red. Green is “low” alert while red is “severe” alert. The government raises/lowers the alert level depending on the risk of a terrorist attack.

The color-coded advisory system is looked at as skeptical by some."A Congressional report has found that the government's much ridiculed color-coded terrorist alert system is so vague in detailing threats that the public "may begin to question the authenticity" of the threats and take no action when the alert level is raised." (NY times writer Philip Shenon - source)

This is the message Karave communicates in “Home Automation”. One potential downside of the presentation was that Karave’s politically loaded message can easily distract viewers from the artistic value of “Home Automation”. Whether you agree or disagree with Karave’s message, the artwork itself deserves respect. The molds of the crash test dummies are very detailed. This detail gives the dummies uncannily human characteristics.

The possible effects of violent news programming and televisual fear.

“Home Automation” was made possible due to a group of over 30 artists. The artists collaborated together on all elements of “Home Automation” from the molding and foundry casting, to the interactive programming. But what makes “Home Automation” a respectable piece of art is the work’s ability to make a person think about the possible effects of violent news programming and televisual fear.

David Karave demonstrates through his art one of the most fundamental attributes America offers - freedom of speech. According to Karave "While we understand that our leaders need a system of communication, we contest any experiment on the civilian population. We simply have no use for the color codes other than as an object of our fears... To truly love, we must be completely free. We must strive for freedom. Peace and liberty will follow."

To learn more about the robotic art of David Karave or “Home Automation” visit Crashing Art.

(original unknown)


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