SHErobots: Tool, Toy, Companion

The exhibition asks fundamental questions about the nature and processes of contemporary robotics through the lens of female perspectives.

20 October - 10 December 2022

We are on the brink of a new world of living with robots. Now is the time to critically question who participates in the creation of new forms of robots, and how.

We are witnessing the rise of the Female Future, where women are leading and radically reshaping practices of design, industrial, construction, manufacturing, social and cultural robotics. Implicit in female-led robotic practices is the overturning of patriarchal values towards a progressive more-than-human paradigm. Feminist values infuse research approaches, ways of working together and the production of robotic processes, prototypes or artefacts that mirror, subvert or transform the status quo.

Pathetic Fallacy, 2014 by Elena Knox (still by Elena Knox / ANOMALY)

SHErobots is the first exhibition of its kind in Australia. It charts and builds upon a history of expert research and output of women pioneering work in a cross-disciplinary network situated throughout Germany, Netherlands, Denmark, Switzerland, UK, United States, Japan and Australia. It explores how they build, hack, adapt and programme both new and off-the-shelf robots through a showcase of six-axis industrial robots, interactive installations, performances, documentaries, art films, prototypes, material samples, and creative objects. 

Project: Galath3a, 2021 by Galath3a (still by Gili Ron and Irina Bogdan)

The exhibition brings together iconic and emerging examples of robotic ‘tool, toy, companion’. As a tool, robots have a rich history in architectural fabrication, including material explorations and new construction techniques; Henriette Bier (NL) creates robotically fabricated, bio-cyber-physical pods that support sustainability of more-than-human species. Toy foregrounds feminist critiques of gender and cultural stereotypes through conceptual re-imaginings of robots; artist Elena Knox’s (JN) ‘Gynoid Survival Kit’ poses troubling issues of power, agency and personal safety embedded in the making of gynoid robots. While companions is exemplified by media artist Mari Velonaki’s (AU) pioneering social robotics artwork ‘Fish-Bird’, which portrays two robotic agents engaged in a poetic dialogue with the audience they encounter, created and first shown at The University of Sydney 20 years ago.

Fish-Bird, 2003 by Mari Velonaki (photo by Mari Velonaki)

SHErobots creates a living laboratory, inviting students, researchers, industry, and community to actively and physically explore ideas, prototypes and processes. It seeks to seed new opportunities and collaborations for female voices leading the disruption into traditional robotics towards a network of critical and creative practice.

Curated by Dagmar Reinhardt, Lian Loke, Deborah Turnbull Tillman

Henriette Bier (NL)

Sigrid Brell-Cokcan (DE)

Mollie Claypool, Melissa Mean & Claire McAndrew (UK)

Kathrin Doerfler & Romana Rust (CH)

Kate Dunn and Charlotte Firth (AU)

Belinda Dunstan (AU)

Shayani Fernando (AU)

Ena Lloret Fritschi and Selen Ercan Jenny (CH)

Galath3a - Gili Ron & Irina Bogdan (DE)

Petra Gemeinboeck & Rob Saunders with Rochelle Haley (AU)

Nadja Gaudillière-Jami & Max Benjamin Eschenbach (DE)

Heba Khamis (AU)

Elena Knox (JP)

Lian Loke (AU)

Lynn Masuda (AU)

Dagmar Reinhardt (AU)

Ninotschka Titchkosky, Chris Bickerton & Rodney Watt (AU)

Anthea Elizabeth Sims & Mary-Anne Williams (AU)

Stefana Parascho (CH) & Isla Xi Han (US)

Gabrielle Rossi & Mette Ramsgaard Thomsen (DK) 

Müge Belek Fialho Teixeira, Maryam Shafiei, Glenda Amayo Caldwell and Shabnam Lotfian in collaboration with Fred Fialho Teixeira, Jared Donovan, Alan Burden and Ayman Wagdy (AU)

Lauren Vasey (DE)

Mari Velonaki in collaboration with David Rye, Steve Scheding & Stefan Williams (AU)

SHErobots: Events & Workshops

Saturday 22 October 3-4pm

Venue: Tin Sheds Gallery + Online

Join us for an artist talk in the Tin Sheds Gallery with Henriette Bier who will discuss the conceptual development of her research implemented in the Robotic Building lab, Netherlands. Henriette will explore the process and results of that research through her work ‘Bio-cyber-physical Planetoid’ as featured in the exhibition..

Thursday 27 October 7-8:15pm

Venue: Tin Sheds Gallery + Online

Robots for automation or robots for ecology? Industrial robotic arms were used for decades in the automotive industry, and have in recent years been adopted in robotics labs across the world for the development of new processes and material uses. Robotic 3D printing allows designers and architects to test new forms, shapes and structures; print with clay, cellulose or concrete; combine onsite resources through 3D printing; and connect to earth and landscapes and work with organic materials that can act as scaffolds and support structures for plants and species.

Join us for an in-person/online  seminar in the Tin Sheds Gallery with short presentations, discussion and Q&A with the audience.  This seminar includes presentations by: 

  • Gabriella Rossi and Mette Ramsgaard Thomsen on Cellulose Enclosures (CITA, Copenhagen, DK)
  • Nadja Gaudillière-Jami and Max Eschenbach on Printsugi Rock Tower (Darmstadt, DE)
  • Kate Dunn and Charlotte Firth on TerraFab (UNSW, Sydney, AU)

Thursday 10 November 7-8pm

Venue: Tin Sheds Gallery + Online

Play or Work? In advanced manufacturing, construction and fabrication, industrial robot arms such as KUKA or ABB and collaborative robots such as UR’s open new possibilities for building methods and techniques. Working collaboratively with robots becomes possible for unskilled workers with interfaces that give menus for tasks and robot actions. New research focuses on the user and experience, where play, interaction and collaboration with humans and in partnership with robots is now essential.

Join us for an in person/online seminar in the Tin Sheds Gallery that features 3 short presentations followed by a discussion and Q&A with the audience.  This seminar includes presentations by:  

  • Müge Belek Fialho Teixeira, Maryam Shafiei and Glenda Caldwell on RoboBlox (QUT, UQ and ARM Hub, AU)
  • Isla Xi Han on Block Play (Princeton, US)
  • Mollie Claypool on Discrete Automation (AUAR Ltd & AUAR Labs, The Bartlett School of Architecture, UK)

Thursday 17 November 6-8pm

Venue: Tin Sheds Gallery + Online

Stranger Things, but with robots…

We have entered a time when robots are both familiar and strange. What purposes do robots serve, in relation to gender diversity? How do they make strange notions of personhood, particularly womanhood, in their existence alongside us? This artist panel aims to make sense of our engagements with traditional robotics, extending our imaginations regarding materials, ethics of engagement, definitions of human-robot relationships, and how female led research is disrupting the current definition of robotics as a discipline.

Join us for an artist talk in the Tin Sheds Gallery featuring artists Mari Velonaki, Elena Knox, Belinda Dunstan, Petra Gemeinboeck, Lian Loke, and chaired by curator Deborah Turnbull Tillman.

Performance by Petra Gemeinboeck and Rob Saunders

Friday 9 December 6:30pm

Saturday 10 December 2pm

Venue: Tin Sheds Gallery

Join us on Friday 9 December for the world premiere performance of Dancing with the Nonhuman [SYD-2-2-1], created by Petra Gemeinboeck and Rob Saunders. This first [SYD-2-2-1] iteration will feature the cube performer (a robot) and (human) dance performers Arabella Frahn-Starkie and Felix Palmerson with their cube costumes, accompanied by Rochelle Haley’s gestural drawings. The semi-improvised performance emerges from their creative research into our relationships with machines, where the encounter of very different types of bodies unfolds in exquisite entanglements to enact extended, hybrid identities beyond simple subject object divides. 

On Saturday 10 December SHErobots will host a matinee performance of Dancing with the Nonhuman [SYD-2-2-1]. The performance will be followed with a fun box robot costume making workshop for children and anyone who would like to join. Come along with your family and friends and unleash the robot in you!

  • An evening performance on Friday 9 December 6:30pm, featuring Rochelle Haley's live gestural drawings
  • A matinee performance on Saturday 10 December 2pm, followed with a fun box robot costume making workshop for children and anyone who would like to join

Wednesday 9 November 3-7pm  

Muge Belek Fialho Teixeira, Maryam Shafiei, Glenda Caldwell, Jared Donovan, Shabnam Lotfian, Fred Fialho Teixeira (QUT, UQ, ARM Hub, Queensland, AU)  

RoboBlox will explore rule-based design strategies to create new structures and patterns of breeze blocks to inform unique experiences of space. Participants will develop novel designs using the RoboBlox App to create bespoke patterns that will then get remotely and robotically 3D printed. Designs can range from repetitive patterns, complex folds, to representations of abstract concepts.  

Mondays to Fridays 21-30 November 2-4pm daily

Dagmar Reinhardt, Eduardo Barata, Lynn Masuda,  Dylan Wozniak-O’Connor (ADP, The University of Sydney)

This workshop observes design in action for using a six-axis industrial robot (KUKA KR6) in a combined kitchen/workshop scenario. How does an industrial robot arm work with a human in close quarters and with sharp or powerful tools? We will explore how standard kitchen utensils (including spoons, ladles, knives, pans) and standard workshop tools (drill, hammer, paintbrush, saw) can be mounted on a robot.

Tuesday-Wednesday 6-7 December 3-7pm daily

Univ.-Prof. Dr. techn. Sigrid Brell-Cokcan (RWTH Aachen, DE), Ethan Kerber (Robots in Architecture Research, DE), Sven Stumm (Robots in Architecture Research, DE), Emre Ergin (RWTH Aachen, DE)

Participants will learn how to design robotic programs from basic motion concepts to more developed strategies for manipulation of planes and generation of tool paths. The workshop will teach you how to connect to international robots, book access, push programs and monitor processes. You will leave with a deeper understanding of robotic workspaces and learn how to optimise paths to avoid constraints and collisions.

In partnership with UNSW Art and Design.

Sponsored by TU Delft, Delft Robotics Institute and the Embassy of Kingdom of the Netherlands, Australia

Exhibition documentation by Maja Baska 2022


Tin Sheds Gallery acknowledges the Gadigal of the Eora Nation, upon whose ancestral lands our exhibitions take place. We pay our respects to Elders past, present and emerging, acknowledging them as the traditional custodians of knowledge of these lands, waterways and Country.

Download the exhibition catalogue

Download PDF

Tin Sheds Gallery

  • 148 City Road, Darlington Sydney, NSW

Tin Sheds Gallery