A Swedish artist creates a talking robot that reveals the banality of social media
Author Jessica Benavides Canepa Illustration Luci Gutiérrez
STOCKHOLM – In the clamorous entrance hall of Stockholm’s Central Station, a shiny one-foot-tall bronze robot sits on a plinth and blurts out random sentences to passersby. “I’ll be there in 10, babe,” it announces in Swedish, and then, “Best game ever!” A moment later, apropos of nothing, the robot squirms with laughter: “Hahaha!”
This chatty mechanical creature, which has small pointy teeth and duckbill jaws, is the work of 38-year-old Swedish sculptor Tove Kjellmark, who modeled it on the innards of a toy bulldog she bought in Barcelona. The device has been programed to receive and recite Twitter posts, a kind of found poetry aimed at exposing the banality and addictiveness of social media—the “electronic device fog,” as the artist puts it, that blinds us to the world.
The inspiration for the piece, titled “Alone Together,” came during a family outing to a local restaurant. “We were talking and laughing, and we saw another family,” Kjellmark recalls. “To their kids, the parents were like, ‘Here’s a computer, leave us alone.’”
Dressed in leopard-print leggings and a black trench coat, Kjellmark sits to one side and takes note of the ways commuters respond to her project. At one point, an elderly man and woman approach the machine, only to scurry away when it shouts, “Where are you now?” Next, a teenage boy strolls by, too cool to care, then swivels around and comes back. “Boo-hoo-hoo,” the robot whimpers, bowing its head.
After the teenager has moved on, Kjellmark says that her 14-year-old recently got her heart broken by a boy. “And how did he do it?” she asks. “By SMS!”