An Armenian artist teams up with Sophia the robot, bringing dystopian love stories to a screen near you.
When Sophia - a humanoid robot powered by AI-driven, deep neural learning - was first unveiled to the public in 2016, she instantly made headlines. CNBC declared, “This hot robot says she wants to destroy humans,” while other outlets designated Sophia “the sexy robot” to the collective dismay of feminists everywhere. Misogynist clickbait aside, Sophia embodies a feat of sci-fi automation, blending artificial intelligence with a cyborg form designed to allure.
Sophia’s creators, the Hong Kong-based studio Hanson Robotics, reportedly modeled her after American starlet Aubrey Hepburn. The insinuation is clear - robots are non-threatening, just as long as they take the shape of a diminutive sex symbol - one that can reflect our most basic desires back to us, be easily commanded, controlled, possessed, and now, mass-produced.
In 2020, Hanson Robotics announced their plans to blitz-scale the manufacturing of Sophia, with the ultimate goal of releasing thousands of similar humanoid robots into the market by the end of 2021. (If you’ve never seen Blade Runner, now would be a good time.)
Over the past few years, the original Sophia has been on a world tour of sorts, at no small expense - an hour with the robot can cost up to $10,000. At the moment, she is in Dubai, but in the summer of 2020 Sophia was in New York City, starring in an elaborate music video produced Armenian artist Anna Khachatryan. The track was composed by Frankie Storm, who has worked with major recording artists including Rhianna, Demi Lovato and Britney Spears, each semi-manufactured and mass-produced femme personas in their own right.
Set against surreal domestic scenes and cosmic star scapes, the video is part teenage love-story, part intergalactic odyssey, but with a production quality that still feels semi-DIY. Anna’s work with Sophia has garnered attention from the established art world (she is currently in talks with a flagship NYC museum about producing a Sophia-centric performance piece, once the pandemic subsides of course) and the video has been selected for a number of film festivals, from California to Berlin.
It’s been a quick rise for Anna, who, just a few years ago, was a student in Armenia, visiting the American embassy every month with the goal of landing an artist Visa to the States (and being told repeatedly that her dream would never materialize). Just when she had lost hope, her tenacity paid off - she landed a sponsor, and her Visa application was approved.
Anna’s journey, and the awe inspired by her new surroundings, is manifested by her art, a multi-sensory exploration of time, space and emotive introspection. Allusions to heady philosophical texts like Donna Haraway’s Cyborg Manifesto and theories like the Uncanny Valley permeate Anna’s work, but the artist refutes any hardline conceptual context. “My art is a reflection of my own subconscious and open to interpretation by the viewer, it’s meant to trigger their imagination,” Anna says. As an intuitive response to the pervading zeitgeist, born of her “natural” human responses to an increasingly unnatural, artificially intelligent world, Anna’s collaboration with Sophia is a technicolor exploration of society’s very near future and uncanny present.