Little Big Man is a huge robotic piece by Nemo Gould, 8 feet in height (approx. 2.5 meters), made entirely of pieces found in industrial waste sites, dumpsters or any sort of pre-existing materials. Gould does not use raw materials.

The robot consist of (a) “vintage wooden radio cabinet, street lamp poles, vacuum cleaner parts, industrial food processor, antlers, chair legs, dining room table top, floor polisher, miscellaneous found pieces of hardware and scrap metal, motors, lights.” [1]

The mouth and arms of the robot start moving when a motion sensor senses an audience, creaking and looking menacing in all its 8’ glory. However, further inspection shows that in the big robot’s belly, there is a smaller, and more fragile looking robot, operating this bulky and menacing robot himself.

Little Big Man was created as a part of the exhibition “Robots: Evolution of a Cultural Icon”, at the San Jose Museum of Art. Gould used more wood for his robotic construction than he normally would, in order to set it apart from the other robotic pieces present. He wanted to explore a certain ‘inner world’ feeling, and was “pleased with the resulting split personality that this piece has. Equally tough and vulnerable.” [2]

The fascinating aspect of this work is that it represents a comic realisation of the notions of a ‘robot’, it being large, tough and menacing, frightening to us comparatively small humans. Yet, upon closer inspection, there is another aspect of this robot that is so vulnerable, so small, and the entire menacing quality of the robot falls away upon this realization. When one notices the small robot operating the big robot, the fragility of the robot-within-robot is all the more poignant and striking. Perhaps this piece can then be seen as a critique on future societies, with enhanced yet still fragile body parts. No matter how large something is, there is always a smaller object that can be the absolute downfall of the larger ‘monster’.

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Gould’s artist's statement makes clear what he wishes to embody with all his works, and why he uses pre-existing ‘waste’ to create them:

“What makes a thing fascinating is to not completely know it. It is this gap in our understanding that the imagination uses as its canvass [sic].  Salvaged material is an ideal medium to make use of this principle. A ‘found object’ is just a familiar thing seen as though for the first time. By maintaining this unbiased view of the objects I collect, I am able to recreate forms and figures that fascinate and surprise. These sculptures are both familiar and new. Incorporating consumer detritus with my own symbology, they are the synthesis of our manufactured landscape and our tentative place within it – strong and frail at the same time.” [3]

This balance between strong and frail is perfectly embodied by Little Big Man. It embodies not only the (industrial) waste which we leave behind, but also our place as humans within a society so obsessed with getting rid of things, in order to get the ‘latest and greatest’. The robot shows we humans are frail ourselves, no matter how big or indestructable we believe ourselves to be.

Gould’s use of ‘consumer detritus’, or ‘found objects’ makes his work and intermedium, as stated by Dick Higgins. Higgins said that “[t]he ready-made or found object is, in a sense an intermedium since it was not intended to conform to the pure medium, usually suggests this, and therefore suggests a location in the field between the general area of art media and those of life media.” [4]

Gould’s robots do not conform to the pure nature of robotics, since he uses ‘old’ materials in stead of new, newer, newest. Robots are generally considered to be the latest in technology, and to use old and discarded materials to create these is almost as if you are turning around the very essence of the robot itself. It is ‘born’ out of old materials, in stead of created with all sort of new and shiny materials created especially for this robot.

Because of the intermedium value of Gould’s robots, and specifically Little Big Man, the artist is standing on the fine line between ‘art media’ and ‘life media’, between being simply artsy and subtly critiquing modern day society.


Links:

Artist's Website

Sources:

[1] [2] Gould, Nemo. Little Big Man. (2008). Info retrieved from http://www.nemomatic.com/nemomatic/portfolio_blog/Entries/2008/4/3_Little_Big_Man_2008_%288%E2%80%99_x_5%E2%80%99_x_4%E2%80%99%29.html

[3] Gould, Nemo. Artist’s Statement. Retrieved from http://www.nemomatic.com/nemomatic/about.html

[4] Higgins, Dick. Intermedia. (1965). As found in Shanken, Edward. Art and Electronic Media. London: Phaidon, 2009: pp196