PRESS RELEASE

Thomas Zummer: all studies, no works (more portraits of robots)
12 January - 25 February 2006

Frederieke Taylor gallery presents an exhibition of a selection of studies for "Portraits of Robots" by Thomas Zummer. These drawings are part of the final series of fifty "portraits" and fifty "studies" for portraits of real, functional robots, drawn with graphite and carbon on paper, and based on archival photographs, diagrams, and photographs taken by the artist. Frederieke Taylor gallery presents an exhibition of a selection of studies for "Portraits of Robots" by Thomas Zummer. These drawings are part of the final series of fifty "portraits" and fifty "studies" for portraits of real, functional robots, drawn with graphite and carbon on paper, and based on archival photographs, diagrams, and photographs taken by the artist.

For several years Thomas Zummer has been obsessed with robots. He sees robots as not only technological, but cultural artifacts, and has discovered that their early history and development as devices, figures, and images is quite strange. Why, for example, should a robot have eyebrows, teeth, or nipples, walk a dog, or push a baby carriage? Why did so many early robots smoke cigars or cigarettes, blow smoke rings, or yodel? These are just a few of the odd facts unearthed by Zummer in his researches. His "portraits of robots" started as an ironic, rather tongue-in-cheek project investigating the image of the robot as a close—but not too close— approximation of the human. Most of the early robots had bilateral symmetry, two eyes, hands, limbs, and other familiar human-like attributes. But why design a robot to look roughly like a person in order to push a vacuum cleaner? Why not just design a smart vacuum-cleaner?

Early robots (like other 'exotic' species) were put on display, photographed and publicized, construed as markers for a utopian or dystopian future, serving as an uneasy index of human progress. Zummer's "portraits" capture the uncanniness of these early figures, their humor and sadness. But they also address our own surprise and uneasiness as we find ourselves attributing something of the human to these 'faceless faces.'

Thomas Zummer has recently shown at the Museum of Contemporary Art/Antwerp, the Cleveland Institute for Art, De Balie Cultural Center/Amsterdam, ZKM/Karlsruhe, Netwerkgalerij/ Aalst, and the Mutter Museum/Philadelphia. Recent publications include essays in Suturas y fragmentos: Cuerpos y territories en la ciencoa-ficción/Stitch and Split: Bodies and Territories in Science Fiction, Fundacion Antoni Tapies/Constant vzw [Barcelona/Brussels]; Die Anthologie der Kunst/ Anthology of Art, ed., Jochen Gerz [Cologne]; Beyond Form: Architecture and Art in the Space of Media, ed., Christine Calderón, Omar Calderón, Peter Dorsey [New York: Lusitania Press]; Millennium Film Journal [New York]; and Faith, exh. cat., ed., James Hyde, [Hartford]. Thomas Zummer is Senior Lecturer in Critical Studies at Tyler School of Art/Temple University and Regular Visiting Professor in the Transmedia Programme/Post-Graduate at Hogeschool Sint-Lukas, Brussels.