Gustavo Crembil Awarded VIDA Grant
Gustavo Crembil, assistant professor of architecture, has received a prestigious VIDA Art and Artificial Life International Award for “TZ’IJK,” an art installation that will use mud-encased giant spherical robots to provide insights into possible parallel narratives between contemporary robotics and Mayan creation myths. Crembil shares the award with collaborator Paula Gaetano-Adi, a former electronic arts instructor at Rensselaer.
VIDA awards recognize pioneering efforts of artists from Spain, Portugal, and Latin America and provide support in two categories: finalized projects and incentives for production. Crembil and Gaetano-Adi, both of Argentina, won a Production Incentive Grant to produce the first of seven robots required for their installation. VIDA funding is provided by Fundacion Telefonica of Spain.
Two Rensselaer architecture students, Cat Callaghan ’12 and Travis Lydon ’13, helped Crembil and Gaetano-Adi develop their proposal.
To Crembil, the VIDA is especially gratifying because it indicates that his work still resonates in Latin America.
“As Latin Americans working in the United States, we want to be part of regional discussions in both the North and the South,” Crembil said. “We were surprised and glad to discover that our work was so well-received in the southern region.”
The TZ’IJK project was inspired by a Mayan myth, which describes one of the gods’ failed attempts to create man out of mud. (TZ’IJK is Mayan for mud or clay.) According to the creation myth, the early mud beings were blind, clumsy creatures, with multiple perceptual and cognitive deficiencies. These creatures moved without understanding or purpose, and Crembil and Gaetano-Adi’s robots will behave in much the same way.
When completed, the installation will consist of a community of seven geodesic robots. Each will be covered in a dried mud crust, made using a pre-colonial construction technique. The robots will interact unpredictably, moving slowly and occasionally colliding with one another.
Each collision will set the robots on a new course and will take its toll on the robots’ mud casing. Over time, pieces will break off and provide a glimpse of the robots’ interior construction—a result in keeping with the Mayan description of the mud beings, which “just crumbled and dissolved away.”
A Fulbright scholar, Crembil has practiced architecture in his native Argentina and the U.S. Crembil’s works have been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Cranbrook Art Museum in Michigan, the Emilio Caraffa Museum of Fine Arts in Cordoba, Argentina, and during Dutch Design Week in Eindhoven, Netherlands.