This photograph is the first in what will soon be a series of broken robot girl photographs created by fashion photographer Tamar Levine and art director/Photoshop master Rob Sheridan. Sheridan graciously took a few minutes out of his busy fembot-designing schedule to answer some questions about robot girls, sex, and technology. After that, I present a chronology of sexy robots — some real, some imaginary, all disturbing in the manner of Freud's uncanny.
How did you get the idea to do this project?
We'd been talking for a while about doing a photographic project that combined Tamar's classical portrait photography with my digital artwork and science fiction aesthetics. Tamar explores a lot of themes of femininity in her work, and, well, I draw a lot of robots.
Do you think the robot girl is sexy… or scary?
I think that question is exactly the type of response the image is meant to evoke. We wanted to explore the way people perceive machines and objects. The contrast of this attractive exterior with the ugly mechanical insides really walks the line between sexy and creepy… With regards to the robot being sexual, there's a definite implication that she's a pleasure model. Maybe not so overtly in this image, but with some of the other ones we're working on. Technology and sex have already become so tightly interwoven that every new technology is – intentionally or unintentionally – immediately put to use for sexual purposes. You can be sure that would be the case with lifelike robots as well.
In your mind, is there a story happening in this first photo? Like, what do you imagine is going through Robot Girl #1's mind in the photograph?
There's a definite narrative going on in the image, as there will be in all the images, but I think we like to keep it a little vague and open to perception as to what exactly is happening. There's a definite sadness in her, which begs the question of whether she's sentient – if she has emotions, or if she's purely a machine.
Do you think technology will ever advance to the point where robots or androids of this complexity will be a reality?
If it does, it certainly won't be in our lifetime.
Do you have a favorite robot? (Girl or otherwise.)
I doubt I could pick one. I'm actually a huge fan of vintage '50s and '60s robots… It's interesting to look back and see how extroverted futurism was at the time – it was all about flying cars and robots that would do your dishes – big, fantastical things. In reality we've gone the entirely opposite direction – technology has gotten smaller and more personal.
Are YOU a robot?
Sometimes I feel like one.
The robot girl in this first photo seems to be perspiring. Is she?
She could be – I don't know how many people have considered whether life-like androids would sweat or not. More likely her artificial skin has an unusual shine to it.
Why are the photos about “broken” robots?
We're kind of exploring the human relationship with technology, which is this very disposable thing. Your iPod breaks, you toss it aside and get a new one. A new game system comes out, the old one sits in a drawer and collects dust. How does that relationship change when the technology looks almost human? If the robot girl is a companion, sexually or emotionally, does the relationship change when the girl's arm falls off?
Do you think you could ever fall in love with a robot girl?
Rob Sheridan is currently looking for someone with prop-making or sculpting skills or someone who can fashion mechanical parts, who can help him create “cool-looking bits and pieces of robot joints and insides.” If this sounds like you, email him at his website.
If it doesn't sound like you, but you just like creepy, sexy robot women, here's a list of what's happening in the world of “gynoids” or fembots:
1. BROKEN ROBOT GIRL
Born: January 2009
Purpose: Pleasure (artistic and otherwise)
2. REAL DOLL “RUI”
Born: Whenever You Order Her
Purpose: Pleasure (extreme)
Notes: “Gossip Girl” outfit not included… or needed.
3. PROJECT AIKO
Born: August 15, 2007
Purpose: “The original goal of Aiko was to help our aging population to do simple tasks like make tea and coffee, tell them the weather, read a magazine or remind them to take their medication at the correct time.” (Yeah, right.)
Actual Purpose: The Aiko is also the first android to react to physical stimuli and mimic pain.
4. RONG CHENG
Born: August 2006
Diagnosis: REAL UGLY
Purpose: International envoy of “beauty” (a.k.a. receptionist at the Sichuan Science Museum)
Notes: Can dance, bow, say hello, respond to questions and recognize 1,000 words.
Born: May 4, 2006
Purpose: Conversation? Made by the South Koreans, EveR-1 (whose name deconstructs into “Eve” and “r” for robot) can recognize 400 words and can answer questions. She will show displeasure if poked. Her sisters EveR-3 and 4 are scheduled for release next year and will be able to sing and dance.
6. REPLIEE Q1 and REPLIEE Q2
Born: June 2005
Notes: Her creator, Professor Hiroshi Ishiguru of Osaka University, covered her in skin-like silicone. She blinks, speaks, and appears to breathe. Her eyelids flutter and she can block an attempted slap. Professor Ishiguru's first robot was a copy of his five-year-old daughter. It resembled her, but her “unsophisticated movements” gave her an unnatural aura, like a “moving corpse.”
Purpose: To prove that Sanrio can do more than make cute cats (Actroid was made by the Japanese toy company's animatronics division.)
Notes: She can learn how to imitate human movements. When she came to the United States in 2006, she wore a black vinyl bodysuit.
8. SUMMER GLAU / TERMINATOR
Born: January 13, 2008
Diagnosis: IMAGINARY (BUT WE WISH SHE WAS REAL)
Purpose: To protect John Connor from Skynet, and make Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles worth watching.
9. WINONA RYDER ANDROID
Purpose: Destroying aliens. As the android named “Call,” she was a kinder, gentler android built by androids.
10. RACHAEL THE REPLICANT
Born: 1982 (but supposedly in 2019)
Purpose: To exist as a human.
Notes: She's the Blade Runner android who doesn't know she's an android. She's also Sean Young's coolest film role.
11. SORAYAMA'S SEXY ROBOTS
Born: Mid 1970s
Purpose: Pleasure. And good to have around when you need a mirror.
Notes: Hajime Sorayama started drawing and airbrush painting these chrome-plated female robots in the days when there was no Photoshop.