Norman T. White at the Koffler Gallery (4588 Bathurst), to June 27. 416-636-1880. Rating: NN Rating: NN
A woman's voice comes out of a speaker under a giant asymmetrical steel and plywood box "Come on, you're not really trying. Uh, the other way please," she says sarcastically.
Grasping a metal handle, I swivel the heavy box on its base in the opposite direction with more power.
"We're almost where I want to be." Eventually I stop even though I know she can't get where she wants to be without my help. That's why she's a robot and I'm free to move on to the next machine at my own whim.
But the next machine shows me that it might not be long before robots like Norman White's at the Koffler Gallery don't need our help. In the case of this one, Facing Out, Laying Low, every sound I make causes the 2-foot-high machine made of motors, computer chips, plexiglas and wires to turn and face me expectantly with its parabolic sound receptors. Like an animal, its movements are independent, reactive and utterly unpredictable. It might be running on batteries, but its jerky, birdlike actions make it seem practically alive.
Norm's Robots isn't your typical art show. If you're seeking something original, this collection will intrigue you, but without the artist on hand to demonstrate the robots' skills, you might find yourself asking, "What's the point?"
"The answer is, it's the potential in these robots that separates them from your average Active Surplus storefront display."