Tina Escaja joins us from the University of Vermont Department of Romance Languages and Linguistics where she is a Professor of Spanish with special expertise in digital media and poetry. During her two month residency at Generator, Tina used 3D design tools, the laser cutter and 3D printer and other resources while tapping member hands and minds to produce poetry robots, autonomous performance entities with a penchant for prose.
As maker-in-residence at Generator my goal was to create robopoems, that is, poetry-inflected/engraved robots that would move and interact with humans and with each other. Generator provided me with the space, connections and resources to accomplish this ambitious goal. I chose insect-like designs found in online open-sources to emphasize anxiety and removal from humans while underlining the already problematic relation between humans and technology. In fact, the original poem is expressed from the robot’s point of view and refers to existential issues, questioning binary definitions such as creature/creator, etc.
My original poem, written in bilingual format (original Spanish with English translation by Kristin Dykstra) is composed of seven distinctive parts. I decided to divide the seven parts of the poem among five quadrupeds of similar size but belonging to three different models, to create a diversity of movements and poetic expression. I engraved the body parts with the lines of the poem and cut them primarily by using the laser-printer, my main tool at Generator. I decided to use plywood instead of my original idea of 3D printing, mainly to emphasize the aforementioned questioning of assumptions in the relation of humans with technology by using an organic material rather than plastic or metal. The laser was also an easier tool with which to tackle the project.
I learned a lot about every single step of the process, starting with Adobe Illustrator (to create the wording to be engraved on the robot-parts); the laser printer! (my constant tool, which took me a long, long time to understand and use properly); assembling of robots (some of them extremely complex and puzzle-like); electronics (arduino, codes, sensors,…); etc. My vocabulary and learning skills improved exponentially during my residency with all these servos, restaring, vectoring, source coding, etc. … A whole new poetic dimension for sure.
The whole Generator community was very supportive. Some members were particularly helpful and patient with me and my constant requests, such as Pete Talbot, who helped me a lot with Adobe Illustrator and with the use of the laser printer, always with a broad smile and a thoughtful, understanding spirit. Other members I have to credit for their support are Alex Costantino, Matt Hogan, Jacob Rothenbeck, Eric Cooper, Heather Hayes and many others who allowed me to keep progressing with my project. I also relied on friends and helpers outside Generator, particularly for electronics (Wesley Alan Wright) and for building one of the robots (Didier Delmas).
In summary, Generator allowed me to bring to life my vision of robot-poems or “Robopoem@s” (“robopoemas” in Spanish), a vision otherwise unattainable in the form that I intended. Simply being in the physical space of Generator was, by itself, a wonderful experience and routine, as an opportunity to engage on regular basis with a visionary group of creators. Certainly a privilege, and I am very grateful for the chance to spend two months as maker-in-residence at Generator.