Magritte meets robotics

Brooke Boland

An innovative exhibition in Chatswood melds Surrealism with robotics and audio visual technology.
Magritte meets robotics

Wade Marynowsky, Yesterday’s Futurist (Self Portrait with Lightsaber), detail. Still from high definition video, 2017. Image supplied.

The Willoughby Visual Arts Biennial is a contemporary art festival that brings temporary public art and happenings to the central public spaces of the Chatswood CBD in Sydney. Now in its second iteration, the 2017 Biennial (running from 6-24 September) is larger in both scope and size this year. 


Programmed alongside several public art installations is an exciting solo exhibition by artist Wade Marynowsky, entitled Algorithmic Pareidolia. Marynowsky’s installation is a series of new experimental video and robotic artworks that explore how our understanding of reality is increasingly simulated and automated. After his 2014 retrospective at the National Gallery of Victoria, Wade Marynowsky: Nostalgia for Obsolete Futures, as well as numerous international projects, this solo exhibition at the Incinerator Art Space is a huge coup for Willoughby City Council, who manage the Biennial.

Algorithmic Pareidolia contains eight artworks that respond to the Biennial theme, ‘Kaleidoscope’. Five videos set in Sydney display a slow-moving and highly stylised aesthetic that references the paintings of Belgian artist, René Magritte. Utilising a surreal abstraction, the videos overlay multiple images to depict a Sydney of the future. 

Wade Marynowsky, The Castle of Bennelong Point (After Magritte), still from high definition video, 2017. Image supplied.

Another work in the exhibition uses machine learning and sight to track human faces in the audience. As you go up to the screen your face modifies, giving you an impression of what the computer sees and communicating an understanding of how machines potentially respond to human beings when they are programmed to track our bodies. 

Another work, Synth_Bot, blends robotics with music. An industrial robotic arm (repurposed mechanics from a factory) has been re-programmed to trigger an audio mix via a synthesiser.  The concept is based on replacing a human DJ with a robot, predicting that robots may replace different human functions in the future. The robot presents a ‘simulation of a human’ and the synthesiser as a ‘synthesis of music’ as a comment on the increasingly automated aspect of society.

But there’s more to the Willoughby Visual Arts Biennial that just Marynowsky’s work. The curation of a public art walk and happenings across the central Concourse will draw the art crowd to Chatswood this September and ensure that audiences linger.  


The Kaleidoscope Walk begins in Post Office Lane and weaves through the centre of the CBD, past the library, and into the Chastwood Chase shopping centre. Along the way, audiences discover eight works, including bubbling paste-ups and video installations. 

Edison Chen, Hyper Dimensional Friends // Dai Ga Pang Yau, interactive video still, 2017. Image supplied.

This Biennial treats the Urban Concourse Screen as a large piece of public art, rather than using it for a narrative video. The interactive live streaming video and sculptural installation by Edison Chen encourages interaction from the public, whose movements modify the actions of the characters on the screen. 

Also new this year is Moon Bar, a pop-up bar on the terrace in the Concourse. Moon Bar is an opportunity for audiences to experience video and performance art on Friday from 6pm. 

To find out more about the Willoughby Visual Arts Biennial, visit 

About the author

Brooke Boland is a Melbourne-based freelance writer.