WTF Fun Fact 13360 – Plant Machete Robot

“Plant machete robot” are three words we never expected to hear together. And yet here we are.

That’s because David Bowen, a renowned kinetic artist, is pushing the boundaries of the relationship between technology and art. His latest exhibition, “Plant Machete” showcases his unique ability to fuse nature with machines. The result is a portrayal of plant life that is truly mesmerizing – and a bit dangerous.

A machete-wielding plant robot

Bowen described the piece on his website:

Plant machete has a control system that reads and utilizes the electrical noises found in a live philodendron. The system uses an open source micro-controller connected to the plant to read varying resistance signals across the plant’s leaves. Using custom software, these signals are mapped in real-time to the movements of the joints of the industrial robot holding a machete. In this way, the movements of the machete are determined based on input from the plant. Essentially the plant is the brain of the robot controlling the machete determining how it swings, jabs, slices and interacts in space.

Art meets tech

“Plant Machete” prompts viewers to question the boundaries between the organic and the mechanical. Bowen’s robotic machete, while purely mechanical, seems to breathe with life as it mimics the internal signals of the. It’s a testament to Bowen’s genius that he can draw such lifelike behavior from an inanimate object.

Bowen’s work sparks conversations about the interplay between nature and technology. As a result, we get a reminder of the connection between these worlds. The robotic machete brings the unseen world of plants to the surface. It also provides a unique perspective on the intricate dances of nature.

According to his website, Bowen “is a two-time recipient of a McKnight Visual Artist Fellowship and has received awards such as Grand Prize, Japan Media Arts Festival; Honorary Mention, Ars Electronica; and Third Prize, Vida Art and Artificial Life international competition. Bowen has been an artist in residence at Autodesk Pier 9, The Mattress Factory Museum of Contemporary Art, The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art and The Arctic Circle.”

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Source: “Watch a Living Plant Wield a Machete With a Robot Arm” — My Modern Met

WTF Fun Fact 12553 – The World’s Most Stolen Painting

It may be one of the most important paintings in Western history, ushering in the era known as the Renaissance, but Jan van Eyck’s masterpiece Adoration of the Mystic Lamb also has a more dubious honor. It’s the world’s most stolen painting.

Perhaps the most impressive part is that the altarpiece weighs over 2 tons – that’s 4000 pounds! That’s more than a rhinoceros (albeit less aggressive). It also measures 14.5 by 11.5 feet.

Also known as the Ghent Altarpiece, Adoration of the Mystic Lamb has 12 panels depicting everything from the Annunciation, Adam and Eve, the Virgin Mary, John the Baptist, and Jesus himself. But the central theme is an incredibly detailed rendering of pilgrims gathered to honor the Lamb of God.

In 2010, Noah Charney, who authored the book Stealing the Mystic Lamb: the True Story of the World’s Most Coveted Masterpiece, explained the painting’s importance to NPR:

“It’s the first great oil painting — it influenced oil painting for centuries to come. It’s the first great panel painting of the Renaissance, a forerunner to artistic realism. The monumentality of it and the complexity of it fascinated people from the moment it was painted.”

The altarpiece was initially designed to go in the cathedral of St. Bavo in Ghent. And that’s where it stayed for a century.

But in 1566, Calvinist militants set out to destroy the piece. When Catholic guards discovered the plot, they disassembled it and hid it in the cathedral tower. It survived the planned attack, but in 1794 four panels were stolen during the Napoleonic Wars and put on display in the Louvre.

After Napoleon’s defeat in 1815 at the Battle of Waterloo, France sent the painting back to Ghent. But in 1816, a vicar at the cathedral reportedly stole the wing panels, which eventually ended up in the Berlin museum. But in 1919, one condition in the Treaty of Versailles was returning those panels to Ghent.

In 1934, thieves broke into the cathedral and stole the lower-left panel, which has still not been recovered. What’s on display in Ghent currently is a copy of that panel.

Unsurprisingly, the Nazis (known to pilfer priceless art) stole the painting during WWII as it was being transported to the Vatican. They were convinced it held a clue to a mystical treasure map that would help them find the relics of Christ’s passion. Yet it ended up stored away in an Austrian salt mine. The mine was rigged with explosives, but the Allies managed to take the mine, dismantle the bombs, and save all the priceless works of art hidden inside.

More intrigue surrounds the painting, and there were many more attempts to steal it. But today, it’s back in Ghent (though one panel – Righteous Judges – is still a replica since it’s never been located) and on display. –  WTF fun fact

Source: “The Most Stolen Work of Art” — Encyclopedia Britannica

WTF Fun Fact – Amazing Land Artworks

WTF Fun Fact - Magical Art with Nature

British artist Andy Goldsworthy arranges leaves, sticks, and stones, creating unbelievably magical land artworks. He creates transitory works of art that look almost as if they were formed naturally. WTF Fun Facts