And then the pandemic hit – and the project took on a whole different meaning.
It is now all about our togetherness.
Running from May 26-31 for the Brighton Festival, Robot Selfie invites you to submit a picture of yourself and then watch yourself be drawn by Kaleider’s wall-drawing robot.
The result will be a massive mural of the public – around a hundred faces – on a screen to the side of Brighton Met College’s new building, created over four days from Friday, May 28.
From Wednesday, May 26, you can take a selfie and Kaleider’s AI will interpret it into a line drawing. When you are happy with what it comes up with, press submit and your face could join dozens of others in Brighton Festival’s giant mural.
Wherever you are in the world you will be able to submit your selfie and watch via a livestream as the massive mural emerges over the next four days.
The finished mural will stay on display in Greater Brighton Metropolitan College’s courtyard throughout June.
Spokeswoman Jocelyn S Mills, from Kaleider’s international production studio based in Exeter (kaleider.com), explained: “The idea has been around for a few years. Originally we had the idea of panting faces on the side of a building. We didn’t know where. We just had in our imagination somewhere in a built-up area, somewhere really busy where people would suddenly be aware that faces were suddenly appearing on the side of a wall and that they would suddenly realise that it could be themselves or somebody else they might have seen on the streets. We were thinking of taking the images from cctv. It was thematically about surveillance and privacy, a much more provocative piece.
“When the pandemic started, we decided that we would move away from that. We didn’t want to provoke or to be divisive. We wanted to bring people together. So it moved in the direction of people being able to submit their own faces into our web platform that it would interpret into line drawings which would then be sent to the robot to draw.
“And we realised that finding the side of a building that we could draw on was not that easy. It is quite hard to find people that are up for a lot of paint on the side of their building!
“We really tried to find somewhere but it became more and more challenging so we decided to go instead for a free-standing canvas like an open-air cinema screen. We have sourced a particular kind of material to act as the canvas. We have a structure that we build and then we hang the robot on that and that’s where it does its work.”
The canvas will be ten metres by eight metres; the faces, around a hundred, will be 80-90 centimetres square: “The robot will be hanging by a rope. It is motorised and all automated. If you had the faces any smaller than that then they would lose integrity.
“We just want people to wander up and discover it or come along specifically and watch the robot working.
“It isn’t ticketed. It is free. It is durational. It is happening on each of the days from about midday each day. Just pop along and see what happens when you give spray paint to a robot on a giant canvas!”
And at the end, as the team move on, the canvas will stay in place throughout June. After that, it is up to the Brighton Festival what they do with it.
“For us, it is about community and togetherness and standing together and solidarity. It is also about what the face of Brighton is like, but it is open to people anywhere in the world to submit their faces, and it is going to be interesting to get that mix of the global and the local.
“We will be able to see if people have submitted faces from different countries.”