Kelly Dobson (US)
Interactive installation, 2004

Blendie is a 1950s Osterizer blender altered with custom-made hardware and software to become an interactive, sensitive, intelligent, voice-controlled mixer with a mind of its own. Human-machine communication is often described as a coded and information relaying procedure. It consists of an exchange of symbols we consciously navigate, enact and train. Instead of buttons leading to ‘whipping’ and ‘pulverising,’ Blendie requires guttural, body-based interaction.

Visitors can prompt the blender to work by voicing the sounds of its motor in action. A person may growl low-pitched sounds to get Blendie to spin slow, and higher pitches to speed it up. This project highlights the sonic, visceral, gestural and other often overlooked and subconscious aspects of our engagements with machines in a playful way.

Domestic appliances are accessible and familiar but they can also be an experiential and conceptual bridge into the arena of other technologies that also have concealed interfaces, such as drones and violence-at-a-distance systems. That foray is where this project gets uncomfortable, hopefully in a productive way. We are all in the driver’s seat. Blendie is the first of a series of voice intra-active appliances made by the artist. There is also a vacuum cleaner, a sewing machine, a toaster, and a coffee maker.

About the artist: 

Kelly Dobson is an artist and engineer who pioneered a novel area of research, examining how people relate to machines beyond their intended purposes. Kelly’s highly interdisciplinary background spans medicine, art, technology, and culture. She earned three advanced degrees from Massechusetts Institute of Technology(MIT) where she trained in Art, Media Arts and Sciences, Engineering, and Anthropology. She has led the Digital + Media department for four years at Rhode Island School of Design and is currently Associate Professor and Founding Director of the Data Visceralisation Research Group. Kelly pays deep and careful attention to the ways that we, and the things we make, help us care for one another and is driving transformations via work in the fields of contemporary art, technology design, medical device design, and critical care medicine.