ShyBot Panel and Exhibition

Italian artist Norma Jeane worked with CODAME to design a robot that they subsequently liberated in Palm Desert for the Desert X Art Biennale

ShyBot has no function in the traditional sense. It does not serve us; it probably will not enslave us (perhaps only our imagination). Instead, this robot is programmed to run. To run immediately, with nervous electric heartbeat, in the opposite direction as soon as it senses the presence of a human being.

Imagine a shy robot

Shyness is considered a trait unique to the human condition — no animals, let alone machines, can be ever be shy. The story goes that shyness is a reflection of our self-consciousness, of our uncertainty about who we are in relationship to a world made up of other uncertain beings. As humans we arecondemned to be free: there are no moral supports, no justifications, and no algorithms on which we can base our decisions. We must make and remake our significance within that world, constantly and from moment to moment.

The ShyBot, equipped with a camera, transmits to The Lab a live stream of its point-of-view – a view based on an algorithm designed precisely to evade the human perspective. This is Norma Jeane’s fantasy of the desert sublime: the machine is let loose in the landscape, free of the human determinism that thus far framed its existence, and we, in turn, are free to imagine a world liberated from the indeterminacy of us.

Follow the shybot on:

Panel Discussion

A discussion on the relationship between human and artificial intelligence, with an anthropologist, a designer, and a physicist.

WHEN: Saturday, March 4, 7:30-8:30pm

WHERE: The Lab, 2948 16th St, San Francisco


Norma Jeane, artist
David Moretti, creative director
Eric Hanson, designer of the SHYBOT
Tobias Rees, anthropologist
Federico Faggin, physicis, inventor and entrepreneur, widely known for designing the first commercial microprocessor. 

A powerful question that emanates from the Shybot concerns similarity and difference between ‘the’ human and ‘the’ machine. Can one draw clear boundaries between humans and machines? It is common wisdom that humans think (and are shy) –– and that machines neither think nor are shy. Machines are mute, cold, endowed with neither reason nor emotion.

But what if … ?

What would it mean to discover a shared ground between humans and machines? What would it mean to think about both humans and machines from the perspective of this commonality? What new, what unexpected understanding of the human –– or of machines –– would emerge? Or is this all futile nonsense, because humans are humans and machines machines?

The Exhibition

Norma Jeane stages Scene with ShyBot as liberation at The Labs, San Francisco, Monday, February 27 — Saturday, March 4, 5:30-7:30pm 

Curated by Dena Beard and Marina Pugliese and is a collaboration between The Lab and the IIC (Italian Cultural Institute - San Francisco) with support of Desert X and CODAME ART+TECH.

Norma Jeane: Scene with ShyBot is part of the Mapping the City project.