Everyone knows that finding a needle in a haystack is an impossible task. But what if it is done by a robot? Positioned at the centre of a haystack, the robot’s sole mission is to locate a needle hidden in the hay. Should it succeed, it will signal its triumph by ringing a sheep’s bell.

This project serves as a provocative exploration of technology’s limits and challenges the notion of artificial intelligence as a mysterious, all-powerful ‘black box’. Critics like Kate Crawford argue that AI is neither truly artificial nor intelligent. Similarly, Jeff Bezos has labelled it “artificial artificial intelligence”, highlighting its reliance on human labour that is often underpaid crowd work.

Moreover, this artwork prompts reflection on the relationship between humanity and the environment, adding a nuanced layer of commentary to the interaction between technological prowess and natural elements. It also raises critical questions about our reliance on technology: Is this the right path forward?

Supported by:
European Capital of Culture Tartu 2024, Cultural Endowment of Estonia, HKUST (GZ)

Varvara & Mar is an artist duo formed by Varvara Guljajeva and Mar Canet in 2009. Often the duo’s work is inspired by the information age. In their practice, they confront social changes and the impact of the technological era. Varvara & Mar are fascinated by artificial intelligence, kinetics, audience participation, and digital fabrication, which are integral parts of their work.

The artist duo has exhibited their art pieces in a number of international shows and festivals. Varvara & Mar has exhibited at MAD in New York, FACT in Liverpool, Santa Monica in Barcelona, Barbican and V&A Museum in London, Onassis Cultural Centre in Athens, Ars Electronica museum in Linz, ZKM in Karlsruhe, etc.

Varvara & Mar webpage
Varvara & Mar Instagram

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Photos by Gabriela Urm, Laura Strandberg