Emanuel Gollob

artist in residence of the EMAP program at WRO

Emanuel Gollob

artist in residence of the EMAP program at WRO

The EMAP/EMARE program is co-financed by the “Creative Europe” program of the European Union.


Emanuel is our resident artist from the EMAP 2023 program. His instalation disarming is currently presented in space for experiencing “something that changes in time”. Its previous iteration was also a part of the 20th WRO Media Art Biennale 2023 Fungible Content.

We’ve hosted a meeting with the artist on 25 of October. The next meeting with Emanuel will take place during the Lalka Nova conference on 24 of November. There will also be a live performance of a human interaction with the robotic arm.

Daria Bogdan (dancer, performer)
Mar Sala Romagosa (flutist, performer)

More about the work and the artist:

disarming is a performative exploration of the relationship between detached robot arms, artificial environments, and human observers, as well as a search for potential future roles of robotics & AI in our society. In the context of a vast development in artificial intelligence and its integration with robotics, Emanuel sees it necessary to investigate alternative roles and relations of AI-driven robotics within our society and the ecosystem at large. Simply applying the known models of assistant, dog, fortune cookie, tool, or live-threatening humanoid might not be sufficient, differentiated alternatives are required. For Emanuel, this search for new conceptual embeddings of industrial robotics goes along with the process of detachment from the notion of an extension to a human-constructed technological body, in the case of industrial robotic arms, also referenced in its name.

Picking up the industry’s narrative of making robotic systems more autonomous with machine learning, disarming features a robotic limb utilizing reinforcement machine learning to learn how to locomote and, by doing so, physically distances itself from the status quo and trying to get rid of its connotation as an arm. Besides elements of dialogic interaction, disarming largely builds upon the concept of intra-action. According to intra-action, the human observers and robotic entity do not preexist the interaction but are continuously performed in it.

The first iteration of disarming was situated in a fallow cornfield. A seemingly natural habitat, which, when looking closer, embraces one of the oldest cultivation techniques, the breeding of corn, with its own technological, mythical, and ecological history. In this next stage developed within Emanuel´s European Media Art Platform (EMAP) residency at the WRO Art Center, Emanuel is questioning this choice and experimenting with different contextual narratives & human roles within the search – from seemingly passive intra-actants to performers and audience members actively learning, and unlearning with robotic limbs. The outcome of Emanuel’s residency project is planned as three possible variations: as a performance of an AI-driven robotic arm & a human performer, as continuously learning robotic installation open to audience interaction, and as continuously learning video installation.

The currently exhibited iteration of disarming fuses physical acting with digital observation and vice versa. The same Reinforcement Learning (RL) algorithm learning physical locomotions with the robotic body in the video footage now observes how likely recent social media postings mention “robot” and “arm” in the same post. In reference to this observation, the RL algorithm is set to continuously learn and unlearn how to narrate the video scenes to decrease this human tendency.

Emanuel Gollob investigates today’s relations between humans, artificial intelligence and robots with the goal of making alternative ones bodily experienceable. In parallel, his work traces the change in human perception in connection to digitalization. Gollob graduated from the University of Applied Arts Vienna with a diploma in Design Investigation. From 2020 to 2021, he was an artist in residence at MindSpaces, an EU research project in the STARTS initiative framework. Since 2020, he has been a PhD candidate and researcher at the University of Arts Linz. In 2023, he was a guest artist at the ZKM | Center for Art and Media in Karlsruhe. Subsequently, he became a European Media Art Plattform residence artist at the WRO Art Center. Gollob’s work has recently been exhibited in various international institutions, including Smithsonian Arts + Industries Building, Washington DC (2021); Science Gallery Melbourne (2021); Art Science Museum Singapore (2022) and HEK Basel (2023), among others.