Sisyphus is a robotic art installation that features two robots engaged in an endless cyclic mechanism. A team of small robots keep building brick arches while a giant robot pushes them down. The robotic systems propel a narrative of construction and deconstruction.
Sisyphus draws inspiration from the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong in 2019-2020. During the movement, pro-democracy activists built small but powerful brick arch structures, known locally as ‘mini-Stonehenges’. Consisting of two vertically standing bricks and another placed horizontally on top, protestors used these structures as roadblocks to slow down police aggression. The arch structures were widely used across Hong Kong, and became a symbol of resistance, according to Western media outlets.
Sisyphus examines how the interaction of systems (i.e. humans, machines, social systems) with contrasting goals can manifest in countervailing actions that struggle to find mutual stability. Carried the eponym of a figure in Greek mythology, Sisyphus expresses the futility of these countervailing acts. The work not only symbolizes the confrontation between the protesters and the Hong Kong police and citizens’ resistance to the increasing interference by the Chinese government in Hong Kong’s affairs, but also represents the wider relationship between individuals and higher powers.
Director, Roboticist: Kachi Chan
Research: Pat Wingshan Wong
Creative Technologist: Nirav Beni
Project advisors: Ruairi Glynn, Parker Heyl, Phaedra Shanbaum
Project developed at: Interactive Architecture Lab, University College London