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Selfie-drawing robot mural highlights Flynn reopening

Published: Oct. 13, 2021 at 5:28 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - As children, we were always told not to draw on the walls, but that’s precisely what’s happening at the Flynn’s Amy E. Tarrant Gallery.

Peek through the windows, and you’ll see a project called “A Portrait Without Borders,” a first-of-its-kind in the entire country.

“What’s happening behind me is a robot is drawing a face of someone in our community through this beautiful portal that the artist created,” explained the Flynn’s Jay Wahl.

The artist is Seth Honnor with Kaleider, a U.K.-based production studio. “We make work that we take to audiences all around the world. We combine installation, and digital, and live,” Honnor said.

The idea began as Kaleider’s “Robot Selfie” -- selfies submitted by people all over the world to be drawn by robots, as a way to bring people together virtually during the pandemic. The project went on tour and those faces were drawn in the U.K. and northern Italy.

“Invite people to put impressions of themselves, their selfie, their portrait in a place where they haven’t been able to be, or where they can’t be,” Honnor said.

Now, this offshoot of the project has arrived in the Green Mountain state. People who haven’t stepped foot into the Flynn in months can snap a selfie and submit it through the portal. Then, Honnor’s programming renders a linework drawing and the robots draw them on the walls.

“They draw these things that quite literally, you can see the sense of the human touch, and I think there’s something actually really smart about that,” Wahl said.

There’s room for a couple of hundred faces on the Flynn’s walls. People have until October 20th to submit their own face before the Flynn’s opening on the 23rd. “We hope if somebody comes in for a show that they take time to stop by our gallery and check it out -- find their face, maybe find their sister,” Wahl said.

After so much time spent apart in the pandemic, Wahl says the idea is that this project helps forge a bit of unity. “One of the things that’s really important with the arts is that the way we all make the experience together and this project really exemplifies that,” he said.

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