People entering UW-Madison’s Stock Pavilion on the evening of Tuesday, May 29 first met a short plaster critter with a wooden back scratcher sticking up from its boxy, two-wheeled body.
“Ah, the backscratcher greeter bot!” says artist Claire Wilson [MFA ’18]. “He was there to welcome people into the Stock Pavilion or to help anyone with an itchy back.” As guests filed in for Wilson’s show, Awkward Nocturnes, the small robot mostly just skittered around in circles, trailing a 9-volt battery from a tangle of wires on its back. Whether it succeeded in scratching anyone else’s is unclear.
Wilson, who recently earned her master of fine arts at UW-Madison and will be moving to Philadelphia later this summer, combined her interests in sculpture, experimental sound, and deliberately crude robotics for the one-night event. As attendees walked onto the Stock Pavilion’s gravel and straw main floor (built in 1909 for livestock shows and UW-Madison’s agricultural program, the venue has also hosted numerous speeches and concerts over the years, from visitors including Martin Luther King Jr., R.E.M., and Rachmaninoff), the program explained the following: