Barak Hemou

An automated carving machine turned robotic sculpture, defying its purpose and endlessly drawing and destroying sand mandalas.


We make technology in our image, an extension of our bodies and senses. In return, technology, through automation and mechanisation, shapes human society. But as some aspects of human function, such as production and association, are accelerated, other parts of the human experience are diminished. This societal “tunnel vision”, driven by globalized values of production and consumption, stands at great odds with spiritual and cultural practices that place meditation, presence and impermanence at the core, rather than the periphery.

I remembered visits to Zen temples in Japan, where I saw monks endlessly rake rock gardens and picking moss, or the dedication of Tibetan monks as they draw sand mandalas only to sweep them away upon completion. I was inspired by this contrast and conflict of values to use technology in service of meditation, true experience and presence. Using machines of production automation and reprogram them into performers of spiritual practice, defying their purpose of production and pursuing an impermanent practice focused on the performance of a task rather than its material outcome or accomplishment.

With this work I hope to open up the question of how technology shapes our society, and what are the cultural values that dictate the direction in which technology evolves. Can we imagine a world in which meditation and presence are not at odds with technological progress? How could a meditating robot inspire us to imagine such a future?