Fluffy Tamagotchi by Paul Granjon (1998)


Paul Granjon’s robotic creations are evocative of the images of chimera found in medieval bestiaries – collections of allegorical descriptions of animals, both real and fabulous, that illustrated the correct way to behave from a Christian perspective. Mythical creatures were depicted as amalgamations of body parts from different animals, for example, the manticore which had a man’s face, a lion’s body and a scorpion’s stinger. These gilded pictures, sometimes humorous, were intended to illuminate, both literally and metaphorically, the accompanying text and draw out its moral significance:

“To improve the minds of ordinary people, in such a way that the soul will at least perceive physically things which it has difficulty grasping mentally: that what they have difficulty comprehending with their ears, they will perceive with their eyes.”1

Granjon creates three dimensional, behaving automata, tinkering them together from children’s toys, other consumer goods and electronic components. In his ‘bestiary’ we find creatures such as: the Cybernetic Parrot Sausage (made from a wurst and a cannibalised toy parrot), which repeats recorded phrases while partially rotating; the male and female Sex Robots, the latest and most technically advanced of his machines, that seek each other out and mechanically couple until electronic orgasm occurs; and Fluffy Tamagotchi (teddy bear material, Chicco toy TV set, 25 year old BBC microcomputer and some sensors), which can sing, wave its arms around and shit blue turds. These works address a post-Darwinian, postindustrial Western society, in which nature no longer exemplifies a divine order and where our lives are more influenced by Moore’s2 – rather than God’s -Law: a place in which we are free to consume – as long as we work more hours a day than feudal serfs did.3 Granjon’s alter-ego, RobotHead, a programmable robotic mask that he uses in performances, explains its role as being: “to help you humans face the activities of everyday life despite our feelings of the moment.”4

The artist does not have a doomsday vision of technology accelerating out of control, rather, his work engages with it hands-on, reveals its workings and celebrates a world that can produce such fabulously absurd automata. In the 2 Minutes of Experimentation and Entertainment series of films, Granjon presents seven of his creations in a humorously deadpan manner. Only once does he crack up in laughter when, in film number 4, the remote controlled anti-gravitational vehicle for cats, he fails to persuade either Merle or Tabby (pet cats)to sit in the device and he has to use a stuffed toy instead. In 1998, waiting to hear whether the films were going to be bought by a TV company, Granjon thought that it was taking so long that everybody would have forgotten what a tamogotchi was. He needn’t have worried – 10 years after they were first produced “a plague of brightly coloured beeping mini toys”5 is spreading through infant and junior schools once more. Granjon dedicated Fluffy Tamagotchi to the parents who have to look after their children’s virtual pets while they are at school. A sign of technological progress is that version 3 has a pause button, but even leading edge automata are pale imitations of the autonomous behaviour shown by Granjon’s pet cats. In the words of RobotHead:
Rororo, headheadhead, Boot me up, don’t worry, Put me on, c’est parti.6

By Jon Bird

1 The Aberdeen Bestiary, Aberdeen MS 24, f25v. There is a fully digitised version of this book at:
2 In 1965 Gordon Moore, a co-founder of Intel, predicted that the complexity of integrated circuits would double every two years. This rate of technological development has continued over the ensuing 40 years if complexity is measured by the number of transistors in the circuit.
3 James E. Thorold Rogers (1949) Six Centuries of Work and Wages, Allen and Unwin, London.
4 http://www.zprod.org/zLab/rHItvFrame.html
5 Fluffy Tamagotchi, number 7, Two Minutes of Experimentation and Entertainment
6 http://www.zprod.org/zLab/rHItvFrame.html