Orchestrer la perte/Perpetual Demotion

A machine nourishes its humans. Stardust or cyborg, social or technical, all things feed and are fed. “Orchestrer la perte / Perpetual Demotion,” a shiny feeding robot, perpetuates patterns of nurturing and domination. It is hybrid, a human-food-technology system. People approach it; an attendant sits nearby; a spoon will soon approach a mouth. Will it open? Will the eater submit? Will the robot accept? The human chews, swallows, and processes. Microbes rearrange and stabilize tissue. The machine resets, the cycle repeats. In these movements, bodies gain just as they lose control—eating, determining, and orchestrating their own demotion.

“Orchestrer la perte / Perpetual Demotion” is an interactive installation consisting of a feeding robot, human eaters, contextually designed foods, a mini-fridge, and a silent attendant. The piece deals with the relations of influence and dependence among human actions and technologies, their residues, and the “natural” world. The fermented and industrially stabilized food pastes that are served up constitute a pivot around which the piece’s central themes orbit.

As an eater steps up to the installation, the reflective delta robot tracks her facial features and brings a paste-laden spoon to her mouth. To eat, or not to eat? When all the spoons have been emptied, the attendant busies themselves with refilling and replacing them, neatly lined up in front of the robot. This human is happy to do his work, happy to serve the robot.

Only at specific moments do our psychological defenses allow our bodies to be penetrated. Acts of romantic and parental love, medical and geriatric care—these are the rare and intimate times when we let ourselves be fed by another. Private spaces, however, are increasingly being probed by external bodies, particularly in the digital realm; our metadata is mined, our movements are tracked, and our socio-affective and psychological oscillations are analyzed, all thanks to social media and our “intelligent” portable devices. For better or for worse, the capacity of individuals to self-determine finds itself affected and infected by technologies both omnipresent and obscured.