The “Emergence of Consciousness” (2010) was a performance artwork using sensory and movement deprivation (e.g. blindfolds, physical restraints etc) and augmentation to reflect physical developments in the human body (from infancy to old age). It created an embodied representation of how experience might be constructed, through physical interaction with the environment and other performers, and the emergence of shared beliefs. By taking on the role of a robotic agent the artist began to understand her own mind in new ways.
The project draws together rigorous practice-based artistic methodologies and scientific research to attempt to investigate the notion of conscious experience from a philosophical point of view, inspired by perspectives of embodiment (Varela, Thomson and Rosch, 1992) and situatedness (Brooks, 1991) in evolutionary robotics and neural network learning systems.
Movement sensors were used to investigate the relationship of movement to experience as well as EEG sensors, Body language was also investigated using motion sensing technology, including physically acting out various experiences such as boredom. She performed a series of movements related to emotional expressions such as slouching to express boredom. This fed into future research with HARR1: My Robot Companion and Cyberspecies Proximity.
The project was funded by Arts Council England and supported by The Centre for Computational Neuroscience and Robotics at The University of Sussex and Lighthouse. It was also awarded a Cultural Olympiad London 2012 Inspire Mark.
Exhibitions and Performances
“The Emergence of Consciousness Project: Investigating machine consciousness though performance art” took place on 25th July 2010 at Lighthouse, Brighton, UK as part of the London 2012 Open Weekend.
The robot, artefacts of the performance and photographic documentation of “The Emergence of Consciousness” was shown in “Our Friends Electric” at QUAD Derby, UK from 1st July – 10th September 2017.
The robot and photographic documentation of “The Emergence of Consciousness” was shown as part of “Intelligent Machinery” at Ugly Duck London, UK from 27th – 29th September 2019.
“Emergence of Consciousness” was a collaboration between artist Anna Dumitriu and scientists at the Centre for Computational Neuroscience and Robotics at The University of Sussex where she was artist in residence at the time. It was performed by Dumitriu at Lighthouse in Brighton in July 2010, assisted by Luke Robert Mason, with projections by Alex May.
Dumitriu has run a number of workshops and presentations for students of all ages on this subject from 5 year olds at a school in Brighton UK to MA students and professional artists as well as lectures around the world including Digital Arts Week 2010 in Xi’an China for art students and ISEA 2011 Conference in Istanbul, Turkey.