Robots and cyborgs. It’s not a science fiction movie, it’s the syllabus of a new academy in London.
The WB Academy (which stands for world bodypainting) teaches students how to use the body as a canvas, transforming human features into robots and cyborgs through paint. Yes, really.
You can use body paint to create realistic looking electronic circuits and cogs on the body.
In some ways, this type of artwork is not that surprising. We live in a culture that’s obsessed with robots. We love movies starring them. Who can forget Terminator or C3-PO? We are fascinated by self-driving cars and drones. And wearable tech…is that not the first step in becoming a cyborg?
For some there are extreme ways to get their robot on, such as body modification which implants chips beneath the skin.
But now, both aspiring and trained body painters can learn how to create “robotic body art” at school.
Alex Barendregt is the the founder Academy also started the World Bodypainting Association. He is also the creator of the internationally renown World Bodypainting Festival, which started in 1998. He has been instrumental in making sure robots and cyborgs were on the Academy’s syllabus.
“Robots and Cyborgs have always had a big appeal to me due to their presence in Science Fiction and popular culture,” he wrote via email.“The WB Academy organizes classes with international teachers who are leaders in the industry. The World Bodypainting Festival has taken a little known art form and over twenty years carried it into the consciousness of everyday people on almost every continent.”
Professional body painter Wolf Reicherter has been turning people into everything from aliens to cyborgs for over 15 years. His passion persuaded Barendregt to create a course called “Robots, Cyborgs and UV.” The course corresponds with the theme of this years World Bodypainting Festival (to be held in Austria in June 2014) called “Ai- Artificial Intelligence.”
We asked Reicherter what the appeal is of body painting robots?
“With modern day technology the creation of mechanic life seems to be within the grasp of possibility. We can now see that we will get to live with life, created by man, in his image. It is the God complex we have,” he said. “I can´t really explain what the the fascination is, in being transformed into a robot, but seeing something move, seeing the physical representation of what could be possible, is a stunning and sometimes overwhelming experience.“
Reicherter believes that it won’t be long before robots are commonplace. “Humanoid Robots will become a part of our lives, because of the demand for their work and making them humanoid is the only way to integrate them in our life.”
That might not happen immediately, but in the interim he sees bodypainting as a great segue to integrating robotics into everyday life. “There is a demand for real robots, and a demand for bodypainted ones, because humans can´t shake their fascination with the artificial life,” he said.
Victoria Guggenheim another instructor at WB Academy is also fascinated with robots. She takes an unusual approach however, as she combines her artistic talent with an interest in scientific research. She has been commissioned by multiple scientists and researchers to create carefully crafted works of art that depict everything from genomes sequenced onto the body to lifelike “Borg” (the alien from Star Trek) onto scientist Lawrence Krauss.
“I’m also deeply excited and passionate about new technologies emerging and how they can be integrated into body art,” she wrote on her website. It’s exciting to see instructors who are so passionate about their work, and who are blurring the lines between reality and fiction.
And just who is taking the course? Anyone who is interested, as there’s no prerequisites to taking the course. Everything is provided, from models, to paint to brushes, so it’s suitable for the beginner to the pro.
All systems go.
Images feature work from Wolf Reicherter and Victoria Guggenheim, courtesy of the WB Academy