Mario Klingemann 
A.I.C.C.A, 2023

AI robotic sculpture. Performative

72 x 41 x 65 cm


A.I.C.C.A. (Artificially Intelligent Critical Canine) is a robotic dog able to explore spaces such as galleries, museums or art fairs, then produce and defecate short texts on the works it encounters. An automaton performer for the age of artificial intelligence, A.I.C.C.A. combines retro aesthetics with complex algorithms, ChatGPT and tongue-in-cheek humour to generate conversation. It reflects Mario Klingemann’s career-long fascination with the intersection of art and technology, but also marks a new step for the artist, who has incorporated robotics into his work for the first time. The result is a furry agent provocateur which invites debate around AI, the role of robots, or even what it means to have a critical eye.

Art critic and pupfluencer

How much can be expressed in just 125 letters? Appropriate Response, by Mario Klingemann, addresses this question. Inspired by the power of words, this interactive piece explores meaning, expectation and relationship with artificial intelligence. 

The installation features a wooden kneeler and split flap display, which shows a random selection of continuously changing letters. When a person uses the kneeler, the installation’s built-in artificial intelligence responds by presenting a short sentence on the display. Each phrase is written by the machine’s neural networks and is entirely unique; no two visitors will ever receive the same line of distilled wisdom from Appropriate Response.

The power of words

A robotic terrier with fluffy hair, A.I.C.C.A. moves on a wheeled platform and observes its surroundings through a black lens-eye. Inspired by classic dog on wheels toys, A.I.C.C.A.’s retro appearance contrasts with that of commercial robot dogs such as SONY’s AIBO or Spot by Boston Dynamics, illustrating Klingemann’s passion for combining state-of-the-art technology with vintage aesthetics. Its colour — white with black markings — echoes the neutral palette of most SARs (Socially Assistive Robots), while its size and cute expression point to the social media phenomenon of pet influencers.

Inside A.I.C.C.A., a complex set of algorithms enables the machine to select and asses graphic artworks displayed in a given space, then generate texts about them. It has been trained on a vast corpus of visual material and art writing, so takes into account factors such as composition, colour, style, and even semantics. Using its own criteria, the robot dog will approach a certain artwork, analyse it and then, working with ChatGPT, generate a short piece of writing. A thermal receipt printer inside A.I.C.C.A. transfers this “critical essay” to a small strip of paper, which the robotic dog then defecates.

Performer and provocateur

Klingemann views A.I.C.C.A. as a performer, much in line with the touring automata of the 18th and 19th centuries, and envisages his dog travelling to art fairs or exhibitions. The piece is inspired partly by the Electric Monk, a labour-saving robot created by the comic science fiction writer Douglas Adams, which was designed to believe in things for its owner. In an age of visual overload and shrinking human attention spans, Klingemann suggests wryly that, “there seems to be an opening for machines that pay attention.”

The artist’s observations on the role of critics as both enablers and gatekeepers all feed into this project, which questions how quality and value are assessed in the art world. “The act of writing or not writing about a certain artist is already an act of gatekeeping […] If a well-known critic never writes about you, you’re probably nobody. Even getting a bad critique is better than being ignored,” says Klingemann. “Not being written about is the worst thing that can happen to you.”

Human subjectivity, AI bias and the social impacts of bot-generated content are all touched upon in Klingemann’s most recent creation, which engages with present-day debates through irony and humour. Entertainer and provocateur, A.I.C.C.A. pokes fun at the art critic, responds to cute-obsessed social media, equates AI-generated text with excrement and, perhaps most seriously, revindicates art spaces as playgrounds for experimentation.