Sit at Your Own Risk

Today the Yale School of Art is exhibiting one seriously precarious piece of furniture. The wooden Robotic Chair forcefully breaks apart, scattering its several pieces in different directions. Then the “brain” of the chair–located within the seat portion–seeks out the pieces and literally pulls itself back together. Think Roomba and R2-D2 meets Sam Maloof. (If you’re not in New Haven today to see this firsthand, be sure to watch the documentation of this self-destruction and rebuilding on the IdeaCity clip on the Robotic Chair web site.)

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The chair’s creators specialize in varying fields of study–Matt Donovan is an artist, industrial designer, and conservator of kinetic artworks; Max Dean a visual artist known for his interactive kinetic installations; and Raffaello D’Andrea is a professor of engineering, and an expert in the development, application, and commercialization of state-of-the-art algorithms, as well as technology for designing and controlling complex autonomous systems.

“As an object, the chair has been a constant and trustworthy partner in the history of civil society,” the artists say of their project. “We depend on the chair to support our bodies as we depend upon the earth beneath our feet. The Robotic Chair stands in for the individual and a society over the course of a lifetime – falling apart, falling down, gathering oneself together, picking oneself up, again and again. The Robotic Chair articulately and concisely reminds us on a grand scale that there is magic – that there is hope.”

The Robotic Chair is on display until 4 p.m. today (Yale School of Art Gallery, Room 126). Dean and D’Andrea will be on site at 5 p.m. to discuss their motivations for creating the object and its significance. So while we suggest you listen in, be careful where you sit.

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