'Terminal Beach' is a 5 min long computer animation film for which we used custom motion capture to record the movements of a person swinging an axe and cutting down a tree.
This motion was transferred to a production robot arm, dressed in long dark hair. The result makes the robot look uncannily animalistic or even human, reminding us of a large ape-like creature chopping down what we thought of as the last tree on Earth.
In the futuristic end-time scenario, the robot brings to an end what mankind began long ago – the continuous destruction of our planet. In a world facing the ravages of climate change, with people on one extreme feeling fear and on the other plain apathy, the piece triggers new complex emotional responses. The actions of an almost comical yet aggressive robot contributes to the feeling of desolation evoked by the landscape in a dystopian world.
We chose the title “Terminal Beach”, both in reference to JG Ballard and as we feel it is more evocative, while pointing at the logical conclusion of the act presented in the work.
The work was inspired by the re-reading of a text by Theodore John Kaczynski, “Industrial Society and its Future” - the Unabomber’s manifesto. While the text is rightfully highly controversial for its rightwing positions, its wide ranging simplifications, and most importantly for being the motivation behind Kaczynski’s numerous act of terrorism, it does propose a pretty irrefutable demonstration of the dangers of AI, showing that humanity is on the course of becoming subservient to its own creation, and relegated to a life of meaningless idleness (paragraphs 171-179). Little known is that Kaczynski was also the youngest assistant professor of mathematics ever nominated at Berkeley University, a man noted for his atypical analytical intelligence.
Text by Ariane Koek for HEK: REAL FEELINGS group exhibition catalogue.
''Troika were struck by what they see as an explicit link between these ideas and the quest for efficiency and profit of late capitalism, the rise of automation, and the ecological crisis we are facing, whilst our obsession for industrial growth will only accelerate the destruction of our environment. Hence the desolation and the central figure of a robot, which may one day replace human labour because it is conveniently cheap and emotionless.
This blending of the real and unreal takes a further twist towards the uncanny with the British based artistic trio Troika’s video piece Terminal Beach (2020). An industrial Kuka robot covered in fur chops down the last tree a desolate landscape with an axe. The fur accentuates its movements and makes the violent action of the robot seem comical and alluring. It is uncanny in Freud's analysis of heimlich and unheimlich - a liminal piece that is familiar yet sinister at the same time. This piece evokes very complex and new emotions that yet are to have definition as the viewer watches the robot's relentless and repetitive actions, which are leading to the destruction of nature and environment.
The further twist in the tale is that the robot that was animated for this piece was trained to do this by the artists. The robot is merely following orders-given by humans whose actions have contributed to the climate crisis we are now in.''