2 minutes introduction as of March of 2008

My name is Taeyoon Choi. I am a tourist from South Korea. (*take a picture with camera) After few tours to exotic places and exhibiting internationally, I came to realize the pictures I take are just like that of other tourists. Suddenly the act of taking pictures seem to become tedious act from yesterday. I questioned, while new technology is making our life more convenient, automatic home electronics are replacing our labor, why is there no a camera that takes photograph on its own. So I decided to liberate cameras from human operation.

I was also looking into some pre-electronic Robotics and Artificial Intelligence, and discovered a French inventor Jacques de Vauncanson’s Mechanical Digesting duck that didn’t actually digest but simulated the act of digesting. The duck seemed to be a proper metaphor for they flock and migrate, just like the tourists.

Therefore I am making a ‘Magical Image Digesting Duck’, by hacking digital camera, printer, vacuum cleaner, mp3 player and connecting them by a single microcontroller. The duck, Charlie travels to many tourists spots in New York City. The duck takes a picture when it detects flash light from other camera, prints it out or posts them on the Net via WIFI. I was thinking about automation and artificial intelligence, and human desire for technology to replace human labor. There are many great readings in this topic, few of them are following. “The Defecating Duck, or, the Ambigious Origins of Artificial Life” is an intriguing essay by Jessica Riskin. “Islamic Automation: A Reading of al-Jazari’s The Book Of Knowledge Of Ingenious Mechanical Devices (1206)” is a superb essay by Gunalan Nadarajan. Also, “The System of Objects” is a book by by Jean Baudrillard is a big help.

The project is realized through a commission for resident artist at EYEBEAM Art and Technology Center and with creativity and effort of numerous collaborators and friends. Some notable references were Arduino, CHDK (Canon Hackers Development Kit) and Kite Aerial Photography fans, Roomba hackers, Duck hunting Decoy user groups, and lots of NYU ITP websites.On the side, an earlier duck project by Natalie Jeremijenko and Robotic pets by Frances Cadet was source of inspiration for working with the medium mentioned above. I have been always fascinated with tourists and their relationship with cameras and photographs. I made few projects in this theme, and I am a permanent tourist. With help of (wonderful!) Lenny Correa, We’ve gathered thousands of tourists photographs with emphasis in certain locations in New York City. I studied the pattern of the photographs composition and contents, and came to understand tourists desire for pictures a bit more deeply.Around the time, I was reading “Regarding pain of others” by Susan Sontag and “Camera Lucida” by Roland Barthes. Some essays such as “The Birth of the ‘Kodak Moment’: Institutional Entrepreneurship and the Adoption of New Technologies” by Kamal A. Munir and Nelson Phillips. Also, some essays from Tourist Studies journal were fun to read, such as ‘Who is a tourist?’: A critical review by Scott McCabe.

*I repeated saying this at least 100 times during residency, because the atelier/labs are open to public.