Robbieycorp: Artist of the Week
This week we are talking to Birmingham based artist Robbieycorp, whose work relates to ideas surrounding digital existentialism and the impact of technology on our emotional and physical well-being. Robbie creates both functional and sculptural miniatures that often use broken, obsolete and discarded technological components as materials.
Image description: a landscape poster showing an exhibition view with large green lights hanging from the ceiling. The walls are covered in reflective silver and wires hang from the ceiling. Bold white text in the centre reads Robbieycorp, underneath in a smaller white font reads Robbie corp dot co dot uk.
Can you introduce yourself and your practice?
I am a multi-disciplinary artist currently based in the West Midlands working freelance as a classical musician and visual artist. My practice revolves around the amalgamation of multiple forms, skillsets, and processes into filmic works. I use stop-motion animation to bring to life articulated robotic sculptures often using technological e-waste as a material to create miniature art objects.
What drew you to working with miniatures?
I enjoy the tangible physicality of objects when combined with paint and texture, and at a miniature scale these qualities can often feel heightened and magnified. The technical control when working at miniature scales poses interesting challenges whether you are modelling, painting or even animating, and I enjoy pushing the level of detail and character I can create in a miniature. There is also a general charm to miniatures and a lot of freedom to create fictional generated locations and things to fill those spaces.
You have stated that your work explores digital existentialism. Can you explain this term and share what interests you in this concept?
Digital existentialism is a concept I am still exploring and uncovering with each passing day. For me, it's about how we interface with technologies that are constantly evolving and changing at ever increasing speeds. It's about the dependencies we create as we more rapidly rely on virtual means of communication, parasocial interactions, and non-physical relationships. What impact does technology have on me as a person when my relational self is set to include nodes along a digital network? I think the more we rely on devices to expand our presence into online spaces or use them to complete our work, the more we might realise that the human is becoming the obsolete part within that network, slowly degrading over time, requiring sleep while our virtual projections stay online through the night... But we all have a different relationship with these concepts whether it is happy ignorance, begrudging acceptance, or vivid realisation of the possibilities of technology on our existence.
Robbieycorp, Fused, film still, 2022
Image description: a landscape oriented film still depicting a silver rocky landscape in front of a black out space. A robot figure with the head of a TV screen sits in the centre looking outwards.
Do you think of your sculptures as the artwork in of itself or are they only props for creating animations or final photographs?
Working with miniatures embeds my practice within sculpture, and this is an area I explore with as much thoroughness as the painting, filming or digital editing of the work. Before each of the following stages, the sculptural object has a life of its own that is informed by aesthetic, material and other factors and is always worthy of exploration. I think it is tricky to put a label on where the "art" really is within my practice as it spans over an extended process not always with a definitive end point, but sculpture remains close to the start of the process and so is a really exciting part for me.
How do you create the titles for these pieces, are these names of the robots or more representing themes and ideas?
The meaning behind the naming of pieces tends to differ project to project. The titles will sometimes be a phrase or word that keeps cropping up during the project, or just a fun placeholder designation that eventually I stick with, a name for the robot, or a method to learn new information or words through association with visuals.
How important is a narrative within your animations?
Narrative within the short films I make is an element I use to guide the production of the film through an internal story; however, I try to keep the actual narratives relatively open and often are more suggestions of concepts through metaphor rather than a telling of a specific story. I try to make the narratives open-ended enough to give subjective freedom to the viewer to draw personal interpretations of meaning which suits the fine art context I enjoy working within. The visual properties of the films through their use of colour, material language, and sound world act as guides to suggest connections and relationships between events, objects, and locations. I think personal interpretation within art about the story behind a painting for instance should be respected and similarly when it comes to narrative within film, however I enjoy playing with the conceptions a viewer might have about the significance of an object or sound cue and that play can often create fun misdirection and red herrings for the viewer to discover, ultimately attempting a less straightforward reading of the films.
Robbieycorp, Microbots, film still, 2022.
Image description: a landscape oriented film still depicting a rusted brown backdrop with two small rusted robot figures gazing at each other with screws for eyes.
The miniatures you have created for your animations often contain an element of humour and melancholy. Is this an important aspect of the work?
I think humour and melancholy go hand in hand. I try to contrast slow moment with speed, quiet with sound, and I treat levity and brevity similarly. As soon as you begin empathizing with technology you realise it can be quite a depressing affair as it is hard not to imagine the life of a laptop ending abruptly with the burial in a landfill, but it is important to stay optimistic about the future especially in the face of potential catastrophic environmental calamities. On a spectrum tending towards acceptance, I find that depression is closer than optimism. Realism rarely stays static and flicks between the two and perhaps my work reflects that? Or maybe it doesn't who cares anyway. Merry Christmas.
What are your own thoughts on technology today and how does this impact the work you create?
Technology todays is an impossible thing to really grasp as it is constantly moving forward. Just look at the development of AI generated art. The incredible leaps text-to-image technology has made in just the span of a few months makes me feel equal parts in awe and uneasy. The nostalgic part of me longs for the simplicity and innocence of what the internet was during the 90s, but the capabilities of the modern information superhighway are truly a thing to behold, as are its potential damaging effects on our minds and environments. My work tries to champion the middle ground in all of these contrasting interpretations and suggest the current state of technology is not solely good or bad, but instead is a spectrum existing across a beautiful double-edged sword.
What one thing would you like to change about the art industry today?
I would love to see more recognition about the historical contributions to the art world made by ethnic minorities and women.
Robbieycorp, Fused, film still, 2022
Image description: a landscape oriented film still depicting a silver rocky landscape in front of a black out space. A robot figure with the head of a TV screen reclines back on the floor gazing towards a metallic cube that is spotlight on the other side of the floor.
Do you have any upcoming projects you are able to share with us?
I am working on a series of fictionalised auto-biographical video works that will be posted on YouTube that will detail the making of a robot. Make sure to comment, subscribe and hit that thumbs up button to make sure you don't miss out on any content!
A final message from the artists.
I feel extremely fortunate and privileged to be able to explore art, animation, music and all the other things, and of course this would not have been possible without the unending support of my friends, family and loved ones as well as the incredible individuals who have helped me in one way or another on my journey to become an artist. I still have so much more to learn and explore, and if not for these people I would probably still be flipping eggs. There's beauty imperfection, wonder and majesty, humour in coincidence, and that's resplendency.
To find out more about Robbie's work you can find him at robbieycorp.co.uk or on Instagram @robbieycorp.
If you are interested in being featured as an Artist of the Week you can fill out a short application form here.
All images courtesy the artist.