Ronnie van Hout: Fallen Robot
On permanent display
in the Dowse Square
"The word robot comes from the Czech robotnik, which means 'slave' and was used in this sculpture to illustrate the idea of factory workers being designed as human but unthinking machines." ——Ronnie van Hout
A giant metal robot is reclining in Dowse Square, his humungous bronze eyes and teeth radiating from his watery home. Designed by Melbourne-based New Zealand artist Ronnie van Hout, and commissioned by the E Tu Awakairangi Hutt Public Art Trust, Fallen Robot is a public sculpture that lies in a shallow pool beneath an artesian water tap.
While children will delight in Fallen Robot, his size, his eyes and the fact that he has ‘fallen down’, adults will question the meaning of a fallen industrial giant. The sculpture is an evolution of Van Hout’s ‘failed robot’ story and a reminder of the industrial history of the Hutt Valley.
Lying beneath an artesian water tap, the robot also harks back to the pre-industrial age in the Valley, when locals collected water, grew and gathered their food and built by hand. People are again able to collect artesian water, from the tap near the artwork. The water, drawn from the underground aquifer to the surface, will also serve as a drinking water supply in civil defense emergencies.
We are used to the monumental being predominantly vertical, but my proposed work is 'feminine' and deconstructive in terms of power relationships. It is about discovering, getting close, and evoking empathy in the viewer. The work utilises the language of minimalist art, which is essentially the language of industry, and connects it with humanist elements, the form of a body with 'eyes and teeth'. What could be seen as contradictory elements, relates to the history of the site. The Hutt was once a rich garden that was displaced by industry. The gardener became the factory worker. The original concept of the robot came from the idea of the factory worker. The industrial revolution beginning in the late 19th century is giving way to another world view. A view that allows for alternative histories. The Dowse redevelopment is a monument to the Hutt's complex history, and future, of which I see the 'robot' sculpture as an important element.
——Ronnie van Hout, 2012
E Tu Trust Chairman, Greg Thomas says Fallen Robot will engage all age groups and make them smile. "We hope it will delight citizens and visitors for generations to come."
The Trust has commissioned several sculptures around the city since its establishment in 2008 including the Smiling Windmills at Avalon Park, the interactive Cube4 at Hutt Park and the Guy Ngan Two Worms Mating in Stokes Valley.