No. 75

Soap Opera

By : aatb

Entrant’s location : Switzerland



Soap Opera, an installation commissioned by V&A Dundee, is specifically meant to replicate a sense of the wonder and playful child-like intent that blowing bubbles instils in us. AATB ask us to consider whether using a robotic arm can still capture the pleasure and delight of blowing bubbles, as well as creating new and imaginative uses for industrial robots. The robot itself has been programmed to create a series of carefully planned movements, with the aim of creating a mesmerising and contemplative installation, which points towards the fragility of what we consider human in the robotic age.

What did you create?

Soap Opera is an installation consisting in a robotic arm equipped with a circular tool that allows it to spend all days blowing soap bubbles. It carefully executes precise movements to produce a serie of various bubbles, embodying a sense of child-like wonder in the very Human act of blowing soap bubbles.

Why did you make it?

Soap Opera takes its roots in the iconography of the soap bubble, found in numerous paintings dating all the way back to dutch masters during the 17th century. The child-like act of blowing bubbles has usually been used as metaphor to represent the fragility and innocence of Human life, a surprising, curious drive to play with physical phenomenons, that pop in and out of existence at a whim of surrounding conditions. Soap Opera translates this very human activity into the realm of de-humanized, automated machinery. The robot re-enact the same coordinated movements and produces giant bubbles all day long, albeit without any sensibility towards the result of its own actions. This produces a situation of tension, with human observers mesmerized by the automated process, entirely produced by a cold, insensitive machine. It begs the question: what really can be considered Human creativity, what is left for us, after all has been replaced by machines?

How did you make it?

Soap Opera is based around a Universal Robots UR10 robotic arm. It is equipped of a circular wand that it dips in a tank of specially formulated soap bubble liquid. The arm performs a series of 10 different movements, choreographed to produce various forms of bubbles. The robot is dressed in a protective cover to shield it from droplets, and is placed onto a plinth, akin a display often found in circus.

Your entry’s specification

Our installation consists of a Universal Robots UR10, with a wand, holding a circular hoop to blow bubbles. It is fixed on a plinth of 60cm diameter, with a second plinth containing a pool with soap liquid. The project needs approximatively 6m in diameter to allow for a clear, safe space separated from the public. The project needs no particular care, every morning the liquid tank has to be filled up with liquid soap formula, approximately 1L per day.