Walking Shopping Cart

abstract

Carlos was a college kinetic sculpture project. I was interested in the concept of automating aspects of society that were considered not so “glamorous”. Robotics are often used in environments which are considered dangerous to humans. Deep sea exploration, nuclear cleanup and volcanism are some of the “higher profile” adverse environments which robots are used. My question was, “What about other dangerous or hazardous areas?”. For example, homeless people live in extremely dangerous environments. Shouldn’t there be automated equipment used by this strata of society? So, for this project I chose to implement an automated walking, homeless shopping cart. I imagine now, to carry this project to completion I should have given the controls to someone who was actually living on the streets near the university. There was a large homeless population near the campus, and there would have been plenty of opportunity. Unfortunately, I had to disassemble the project for parts before this happened.

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by Wende Schwingendorf

It started innocently enough — a child playing with Legos and taking apart mechanical toys to see how they worked. But UNM student Greg Perry has taken his obsession with tinkering one step further and designed a sculpture that walks by itself.

Perry is a computer science graduate student who creates his “kinetic pieces” in UNM’s art department.

Perry let one of his sculptures walk and mingle with students on campus several times this semester; a remote-controlled pair of legs that walk and push a shopping cart amazed students on the Yale Mall.

Perry operates the sculpture remotely. He said he likes to watch people who try to find him operating the legs.

“They always walk away smiling,” he said.

A dying battery altered a performance last Thursday.

“It looked like it was on death row, turning in permanent circles and grinding gears,” he said. The legs will probably walk again, but not at UNM.

“It’s already been done,” he said. “Maybe I’ll take it Downtown near Second Street when the office workers come out for lunch and the homeless are by the blood bank. Maybe I’ll take it to a supermarket around Thanksgiving.”

Shocking people and making heads turn is part of Perry’s art.

His work area in the UNM art department is filled with distorted, sculptured bodies, mounds of clay waiting to be molded and other projects heaped in a small corner.

Hunks of clay are shaped to resemble grotesquely large body parts. Hearts and lungs are covered with thick, brown clay veins. Arteries as big as two fingers stick out of the sculptures, reaching towards the center of the room.

“Body parts were a new idea for me,” Perry said. “I used drawings for the ideas and called them ‘Symphony of Guts.'” Under the shelves with clay anatomy stands Perry’s latest creation — a memorial to the homeless.

Perry said the remote-controlled sculpture was designed without a torso because the homeless are considered anonymous and people don’t usually acknowledge them.

Perry said the untitled sculpture was inspired by a homeless man in the University area named Carlos “Ragman” who was burned to death in an alley near UNM in 1989. Probably what is most influential is a vividly strange ‘vision’ in which he can see his art object move. In this case the movement was very important, it was a study in human walking. “People lift their hips slightly then pull the thigh up and let the foreleg swing forward. When the leg is forward the whole assembly drops and locks. At this point weight is shifted on to the planted foot.” “It’s rather funny how complicated something we don’t usually think about can be.” Perry said he gets parts for his creations through donations and luck.

When Perry was in California two years ago, he said he saw someone throwing away an old coping machine. “I gutted the whole thing,” he said. “I put all 200 pounds in a suitcase and brought it back to Albuquerque.”

“I just hoard like a pack rat and build on it” he said. “Then if I get an idea, I check to see if I have the right stuff.”

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