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I had been avoiding an exhibition at the Grand Palais called Artistes & Robots, but I decided to see it this Sunday since I read a good review. My reluctance to see the show had been because I find randomly-created art soulless; an important part of my reaction to an artwork is the idea that it came from the mind of another human being. My concerns weren’t completely misplaced. It was mesmerizing to watch these little robots wander around a sheet of paper making random marks, but I found the results uninteresting.

I was charmed, however, by another of the robot-art pieces in the early part of the show. This involved three robot “artists,” each using a camera and a pen to draw a still life. Some of them were quite talented! The artwork was for sale in the gift shop, but I found that a bridge too far.

Human Study #2.D. La Grande Vanité au Corbeau et au Renard by Patrick Tresset

Another piece I liked was installed in a grand stairway. It’s composed of an array copper tubes suspended in mid-air by almost invisible lines, which gently move them in graceful, ever-changing patterns. Even if there’s an element of randomness, the patterns seemed meaningful and satisfied me.

Grand Hexanet by Elias Crespin

Yet another installation that impressed me was a room of computer-generated and 3d-printed columns. While there was an element of randomness in their details, their overall symmetry was satisfying, and the experience of walking among them was intriguing

Astana Columns by Michael Hansmeyer

One piece that seemed stale was a room decorated with flowing black and white patterns. Yes, it’s a selfie-magnet, but I was underwhelmed.

Me in an Untitled room by Peter Kogler

One of my favorite pieces was a variation of a now-standard video work that presents a distorted image of the viewer. The unique feature of this piece was the fact that the image was created by a swarm of digital flies. It’s “Portrait on the Fly” by Christa Sommerer & Laurent Mignonneau.

My hands-down favorite, however, was this Takashi Murakami robot. It didn’t do much except roll its four eyes and mumble, but it was gorgeous and creepy to look at. Part of my appreciation, I think, is that it was a robot made by an artist rather than “art” made by a robot.

An additional reason for going to the show was that the nave (nef) of the Grand Palais was open to visitors for just two weekends this spring. Although I have been to shows many times elsewhere in the enormous building this was the first time I have been in the central space. Just an huge empty room, but with lovely glass and metal roofs.

The nave of the Grand Palais

Pano of the nave of the Grand Palais

Cleverly, they set up a gelato stand, which I was happy to patronize.

Beer isn’t my only vice!