B.C. artist Kevin Schmidt’s exhibit We Are the Robots invites visitors to play their own vinyl records in a listening room at the Vancouver Art Gallery (VAG).
The audiophile listening room called ‘DIY Hifi’ contains gigantic stereo speakers, a kit tube amp and furniture that Schmidt built.
The exhibition explores do-it-yourself (DIY) knowledge production pointing to the utopian aspects of mass knowledge distribution over the internet and the pressure to commodify and brand it.
“I was thinking about platforms like YouTube or Instagram and Facebook that are built and presented as open ways for people to participate. I wanted to replicate and ask questions about that,” he says.
The title of the exhibition was inspired by the origin of the word robot, in Czech robota, meaning “forced work.”
His ‘RGB Beg Cycle’ piece invites visitors to play electronic keyboards to activate fluorescent multi-coloured LED lights on the VAG’s Howe, Georgia, Hornby and Robson Street facades.
‘How to Make An Off-Grid Hydroelectric Light Show’ video and sculpture shows how a washing machine can be repurposed to generate electricity in the middle of the forest.
Nature, electricity and modern comfort combine in ‘DIY Hifi’, which plays a default field audio recording of nesting birds chirping on islands in the Peace River. “When the Site C dam is finished these will be flooded and this acoustic environment will no longer exist,” Schmidt says.
“Our domestic spaces rely on this kind of resource extraction and that’s problematic. I wanted to highlight that and implicate all of us. We get the pleasure of listening to vinyl records on this high end system but it’s all based upon this resource extraction that’s happening. It’s complicated,” he says.
We Are the Robots is curated by Grant Arnold, Audain curator of British Columbia art and is on display from July 14 to October 28.