There is a robot who doesn’t want to see people.
Shybot, its called, a little six wheeled mechanical person whose job was the wander the desert, to be itself – Alone. – and embrace a solitary life afforded by the hot climate. The mechanical person is a tree in the forest, in a sense: if Shybot isn’t seen, does Shybot exist?
Of course it does. Of course, when I am quiet, I still exist. I like to tuck myself away, I like to wander invisibly in the open, I like to tuck myself into desert sand to observe and report to myself. Shybot, you are me and I am you. We’re not that different.
Shybot was made by artist Norma Jeane for the 2017 Desert X as a means to embrace the idea of being alone. Of being shy. The mechanical person – a distant, distant, distant, distant cousin of the Mars rover – was created to wander without being seen. The whole point of this art was to exist without us. So what does it mean for Shybot to be discovered?
A lot. As Desert X curator Neville Wakefield explained to The Art Newspaper, the mechanical person that is Shybot’s exploration and eventual finding is us. It’s a small rolling metaphor.
To me Shybot always represented the idea that there was something out there — the something that, whether in religion or horror, we can’t help but search for. There’s been a lot of speculation as to what happened during the past 16 months — bot-napping, pilgrimages to Mecca etc — but for the faithful she was always there, proof again that we only truly find ourselves in the places that we are least present.
When staring out a window, when staring at the ocean, when watching a leaf turn on a tree: you are Shybot. You are being the most you, absentmindedly participating in what you find important, what you find yourself in.
Perhaps we’re all waiting to be found. Perhaps we’re all roaming. Shybot, little Shybot, we love you.