The Furbaeum is an interactive augmented reality artwork inspired by William-Adolphe Bouguereau’s The Nymphaeum and the historical nymphaeums of Ancient Greece. The inner reality of the work is revealed when participants interface with the piece, converting a still photograph into video and sound when the installation is viewed through the augmented reality application Program Synthesis. This work examines the relationship between humans and machines, reflecting on persistent collective biases and superstitions towards the robotic other.
Introduced in 1998, Furby was the first widely successful domestic robot, but in the last 20 years Furby has suffered a steady decline into the uncanny valley. Perhaps the best indication of Furby’s fate is revealed by a YouTube search for “Furby” which yields top results such as: I Bought A Haunted Furby (Unboxing It - SO SCARY); EL FURBY DEL INFIERNO; and Crushing Furby with Hydraulic Press.
The Furbaeum invites the viewer to consider how our treatment of these companion robots is not a justified response, but rather a reflection of the darkness within ourselves. The song that is revealed when The Furbaeum is activated references another once-beloved automatronic toy, appearing here as the robot’s dream for a future where they are neither feared nor abused.
Commissioned by Locust Projects, Miami, Florida.