Watch A Useless, Beautiful Machine Sort Rocks

Art imitates the drudgery of life

Geology is the science of stones, of their shapes and formations and locations and changes over time. Human history, too, is a study, in part, of stones: ones shaped by humans, piled high by humans, flung at high velocities by humans at other humans. There is history in rocks and rocks in history.

It should be no surprise, then, that there is art in the sorting of stones.

At Ex Post, a display space in Prague, the Jller machine gets to work. A camera-equipped computer analyzes the ages and types of pebbles, and then a suctiony grabber arm picks up each one and moves it to a new location. The process repeats, taking between two and three days.

Created by Czech artist Prokop Bartoníček and German artist Benjamin Maus, Jller sorts through thousands of pebbles. The machine and its computer vision algorithms were first trained by the researchers then automated and left to work.

From the creators:

As art, this needs no greater application than merely existing, though machine learning and sorting processes have industrial uses. Instead, we can contemplate Jller as a sort of modern Sisyphus, diligently arranging rocks for no clear end. We need not imagine this mechanical Sisyphus happy, or even ignorant. Instead, we can imagine it contemplative.

Watch below:

Kelsey D. Atherton

Kelsey D. Athertonis a defense technology journalist based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. His work on drones, lethal AI, and nuclear weapons has appeared in Slate, The New York Times, Foreign Policy, and elsewhere.