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Man, Music and Machine: Conrad Shawcross’ The ADA Project

March 22, 2016
Man, Music and Machine: Conrad Shawcross’ The ADA Project
"Love Art at The Peninsula" returns for its second seminal year in partnership with Britain's leading artist-led institution, the Royal Academy of Arts (RA). Proudly showcasing a ground-breaking work by the British artist, Conrad Shawcross RA, “The ADA Project” combines sculpture, robotics and music to create a dramatic visual performance, comprised of a series of collaborations between Shawcross and leading contemporary composers. Elevating the tenets of sculpture, robotics and music, according to Royal Academy of Arts’ Artistic Director, Tim Marlow, “The whole idea of metamorphosis and transformation lies at the heart of the project… Taking an industrial robot that is most commonly used on automated assembly lines, Shawcross has programmed it to perform four choreographed routines with each composer responding to the robot’s movements.”

For Shawcross’ first exhibition of the work in Asia, a series of live performances in The Peninsula's iconic Lobby will feature the British composer Mira Calix performing “if  then  while  for”, alongside Hong Kong soprano Joyce Wong, who will sing a musical lament to the robot on 22 March at the unveiling; on 23 March during Afternoon Tea at 3:00 pm and 5:00 pm; and at the exclusive Love Art Gala on 24 March. The work will be in “Salon Mode” at all other times, inviting the audience to "play" one of four tracks created by composers Beatrice Dillon and Rupert Clervaux, Tamara Barnett-Herin and Mylo, Holly Herndon, and Calix.

From thought-provoking art to stimulating gastronomy and more, The Peninsula Hong Kong invites you to experience "Love Art" in all its glory.
The ADA Project is a ground-breaking robotic installation by Conrad Shawcross RA, devoted to elements of form, music, mathematics and history. For its creation, Shawcross references the revolutionary influence of Lord Byron’s daughter, Ada Lovelace, a 19th century British mathematician who worked closely with Charles Babbage - who is widely regarded as “the father of the computer”. Lovelace predicted that Babbage's counting machine could one day compose music. She went on to create an algorithm considered to be the world’s first computer programme, 150 years ahead of its time.

The ADA Project is an ongoing series of musical commissions using a hacked industrial, assembly-line robot as the integral commissioning instrument. So far the project has created four commissions from four female contemporary composers, each of whom undertook a short residency in the artist’s studio, where they worked closely with Shawcross discussing Babbage and Lovelace’s discoveries, while responding directly to a unique piece of robotic choreography created by Shawcross for them.  

The programmed sequences known as “splines” have each been created by the artist, in response to key ratios embedded in Babbage’s meticulous mechanical drawings of his calculating machine, known as the "Difference Engine". While Babbage spent his whole life trying to create the machine, it was ultimately never realised in his lifetime. It has since been built by London's Science Museum, vindicating Babbage’s genius.   

As part of "Love Art at The Peninsula", The ADA Project is on display in The Lobby from 22 March to 5 April. While the robot will perform four musical sequences throughout the day in “Salon Mode”, in the four spellbinding live performances by British composer Mira Calix, the soprano wills the robot to fall in love with her, with the machine responding in a series of languid strokes, suggestively reciprocating her musical overtures.

A series of limited edition digital prints of the corresponding splines will be exhibited in the hotel’s first floor exhibition space for the duration of the Lobby installation, further extending The ADA Project’s reach and resonance.

©Conrad Shawcross, The ADA Project, 2016
Courtesy the artist and Victoria Miro, London.