Projects

Other Animals

Robbie Thomson

A series of public interventions which use soft robotic sculptures to raise awareness of local ecological issues and the wider climate crisis.


A film by www.reubenandjamie.com

Made by

Robbie Thomson

Robbie Thomson

Robbie Thomson is a Glasgow based artist working between the fields of visual art, music and theatre. He joined Pervasive Media Studio on the Watershed/MAYK 2020 Winter Residency programme.

Other Animals is a series of public interventions which uses soft robotic sculptures to raise awareness of local ecological issues and the wider climate crisis. 

This project was started in January 2020 as part of the Watershed/MAYK Winter Residency program and is currently at the research and development stage.

I’m interested in building synthetic orgainsms which can stimulate an emotional response in encounters with an audience. I want to emphasise a sense of connection to the environment, not to think of nature as something separate from, but rather contingent with our human experience as living creatures and explore the fragility of the systems which support life. The sculptures will be positioned in public places in the city centre, they will have embedded capacity for human interaction and will also be responsive to environmental stimuli.

The research process has lead me into thinking a lot about the materials I work with and how to minimise the waste and environmental impact of making this type of work. I will incorporate various organic and recycled materials into the fabric of the sculptures.

I have started an experiment growing mushroom mycelium which I will use for solid, skeletal parts in the sculpture and also a type of bacterial cellulose which I can use for creating skins and sacks, the majority of the work will be biodegradable after its useful lifespan. The main drawback of this is that it will take time to grow these materials but I’m interested to play with them and get an understanding of their properties – how strong are they? How flexible? Can they be drilled? Do they hold the shape of a mould?

I’ve been looking at creatures at various scales on the spectrum, from unicellular microscopic creatures to more complex vertebrates and human anatomy. I’m interested in working from the context of the public sites as the key influence in the morphology and design of the sculptures. I’ve been drawing inspiration from soft robotics, using pneumatics and hydraulics to inflate soft bodies and build experimental muscle systems.

By the end of the residency I aim to have created a few working prototypes and tested it outside in the city. While in Bristol, PM Studio has introduced me to conversations with various roboticists and researchers such as Open Bionics, Rusty Squid, Fungal Architecture, Playable Cities and Richard Sewell which have been massively helpful in the development of this project.


Project blog


Studio themes