Interview with Patrick Tresset

By Etienne Verbist - Thursday, August 25, 2016
Interview with Patrick Tresset

Patrick Tresset is a London based artist, his art practices follow two main path, on one hand Tresset presents theatrical installations in which robotic agents are actors, these installations are often evocations of humanness. On the other hand Tresset also uses robots and computational systems to produce series of drawings, paintings and videos.

Interview with PATRICK TRESSET

Patrick Tresset is a London based artist, his art practices follow two main path, on one hand Tresset presents theatrical installations in which robotic agents are actors, these installations are often evocations of humanness. Tresset crafts the computational systems driving the robots so that their behaviour can be perceived as artistic, expressive and obsessive. These systems are influenced by research into human behaviour, more specifically how humans make marks, how humans depict other humans, how humans perceive artworks and how humans relate to robots. On the other hand Tresset also uses robots and computational systems to produce series of drawings, paintings and videos.   

Patrick’s work has been internationally exhibited in solo and group shows, in association with major museums and institutions such as The Pompidou Center (Paris), Tate Modern (London), Museum of Israel (Jerusalem), Prada Foundation (Milan), Victoria & Albert Museum (London), Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (Seoul), Bozar (Brussels),Laznia Center (Gdansk) and other events such as Art Brussels, Ars Electronica, Update_5, London Art Fair, Kinetica Art Fair and Istanbul Biennial.

Portrait of Patrick Tresset 

EV: What’s your goal? 

PT: To give a multi layered aesthetic experience to a wide audience. My goal is for my work to provide rich emotions, to amaze, intrigue whilst showing something about humanness. Also to demonstrate to young people who have similar personality, traits as myself that they can find their place whilst being relatively happy.

EV: What is your dream project?                 

PT: I don’t really have a dream project , or I realised my dream project earlier than expected. It seems that if you consider an aim as a dream it will be more difficult to make it a reality. I prefer to think that everything is possible, whilst it might not be true I think it makes the journey easier and more interesting.

Human study #1. 5rnp BIAN, 2016. Photo Sabina Tupan. Courtesy Patrick Tresset

Human study #1. 3rnp. Drawing a yound man.  Photo @ and courtesy Patrick Tresset

 Paul drawing Patrick. Photo by Tommo. Courtesy Patrick Tresset

EV: Why do you do what you do? 

PT: To pass time in the most interesting way I can. Having the activity/practice which corresponds the most to my talents, skills, aptitudes, longings, whilst having a contributing position in society. If my 8 years old self knew what I am doing with my adult life he would be very happy and excited. I was already fascinated by technology/sciences and arts as a kid.  

EV: What role does the artist have in society? 

Simply to make artworks. I am not sure what is the purpose of art, but it seems that since we have been sapiens some of us have had the role to produce artworks. It seems that it is also considered an important activity. I am not certain in what way it is important. Perhaps one of the roles is to show to future artists that it is a role in society. Perhaps to provide a different perspective of reality, whatever type of reality it is society, visual, religion, psychology.. And to amaze people.

EV: What themes do you pursue? 

PT: I am  Interested in humanness, I think it is main subject of my work , to depict something related to existence a human. The representation of some common human traits. Some of the audiences see a commentary on technology but this is not what I pursue.

Human Study #2. Paul-IX. La Vanite. Photo @ and courtesy Patrick Tresset

Vanitas, courtesy Patrick Tresset

EV: What’s your favourite art work?                   

PT: I do not have any favourite anything, no favourite music, food, places, people, artworks.  There are a lot of things that I perceive as excellent. I find this idea of the best as a reality, unrealistic. The best as an aim is perhaps good as a drive, but one has to be aware that only excellence is realistically achievable. 

EV: What memorable responses have you had to your work?

PT: Nowadays each time I exhibit I think that it is not going to work on the audience, that people won’t be interested. Fortunately so far it has always worked. The most memorable experience or story: One of my robot did a portrait of a woman, a neuroscientist, at an art-fair. We had an interesting long conversation. Few months after, I received an email from this woman saying that she was dying from an incurable disease, and that she wanted to have a double portrait with her daughter, to leave her a memory. It is the saddest and most beautiful event which has occurred in relation to my practice. 

EV: What do you dislike about the art world?

PT: I don’t really  know, I don’t see myself as part of the art world, although I am, as I exhibit a lot and make a living out of my artistic practice. I am not really inside the traditional art world or the traditional art economy. It could happen but I am not sure it is really the artist’s decision. I don’t really understand curators and other actors of the art world who consider works which are interesting to a wide audience to not be art. 

EV: What role does arts funding have?    

PT: It allows to wide audiences to be able to experience art. But the way art grants are decided might sometime be attributed to the academic mainstream contemporary. Personally I get arts funding indirectly, I do not get direct subsidies , but my installations are “rented” via Museums, festivals, events which generally receive state grants. 

EV: What research to you do?  

PT: To produce my work I rely on research into perception, psychology, robotics, computer vision, AI etc..              

EV: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

PT: My brother told me don’t try to do the best, try to do the good, by good he meant excellent.

EV: What would you have done differently? 

PT: Nothing, even the bad experiences. It is absolutely useless to have regrets, mistakes are good, as you supposed to learn from them. I guess one should try to not repeat mistakes.

EV: What is the role of the people, the crowd in your project? 

PT: My work became initially known through internet & youtube  which helped me to reach a wide audience. I am lucky as my work touches naturally a very wide audience, crowds. 

With everything you do in computing and robotics you are never working alone, Computing is always ,and directly based upon code previously written by a large number of people especially that my work rely exclusively on open source libraries, I only use linux. Code development has perhaps been the first crowd realised work. I read publicly available research conducted in university. This is for me the most interesting effect of the internet on human development. 

Juliette by Paul IV. Ccourtesy Patrick Tresset

Stephanie by Paul IX, 2014. Courtesy Patrick Tresset

EV: How can they participate in your project?

PT: As an artist I am a bit old fashioned and although I have an assistant who is now very important.  All the decisions and actions which will influence the artworks are my responsibility. 

People participate as actors/models in some of the installations I exhibit.  One of my my artwork is the accumulation of the drawings of people, it already includes more than 12000 individuals, which is a small crowd.

EV: How are you connected with the people or the crowd?

PT: My robots provide the connection.

EV: The crowd economy creates meaningful experiences and shared value how do you,  see it for your work...?

PT: As I use technologies which are considered as novel and in the context of art. There are different audiences for my work, the artistic, technologist and a wider public. Perhaps it gets technologists more interested in art and art audiences more interested in technology. It brings different perspective of technology and art. When the work is exhibited it is often observed for a length of time by a non negligible number of people for an artwork. Generally I aim to touch the individual, but then a lot of individuals form a crowd.

Woman by Paul David, 2013. Courtesy Patrick Tresset

EV: Co-creation and participation are emphasized in the crowd economy and communities take an active stake in crafting positive futures.

PT: In computing the crowd find always the solution, we go to a world of abundance.

EV: How do you use the crowd?

PT: I would never be able to do my work without the crowd involved in technology and without the audience.

EV: How do you interact? 

PT: Through the exhibitions, I let my robots interact but I also give talks, answer interview etc… my work is often disseminated widely and internationally as it often featured on news websites.

EV: How do you handle feed back?

PT: Unfortunately feedback via internet is generally not very interesting.

Etienne Verbist
Curator for hybrid and disrupitve Art 

Etienne Verbist is an authority in the field of crowd sourcing, disruptive business modelling and disruptive art. After a well filled career with companies such as GE, Etienne was an early adopter of crowd sourcing. Etienne is manager Europe and Africa for Crowd Sourcing Week, a board advisor to a broad range of companies on innovation and new technology, curator of the Disruptive Art Museum – the smallest museum in the world – and columnist for ArtDependence Magazine.

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Anna Melnykova, "Palace of Labor (palats praci), architector I. Pretro, 1916", shot with analog Canon camera, 35 mm Fuji film in March 2022.


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