It’s official. The future is here. Philip Colbert’s innovative exhibition, Lobsteropolis, allows you to visit the Saatchi via “telepresence” robots. Each visitor is given their own robot, to control remotely from the comfort of their own homes. Simply by clicking the ‘up’, ‘down’, ‘left’ and ‘right’ keys on your keyboards, you too can direct your very own robot around Colbert’s wacky world.
Robots aside, it’s fair to say this is not your typical exhibition. Lobsteropolis is the largest survey of Colbert’s artistic universe to date. London-based Neo Pop Surrealist artist, Philip Colbert, has been labelled “the godson of Andy Warhol” for his provocative multimedia works. He’s developed a global following for his art, all featuring his distinctive cartoon lobster persona. “I became an artist when I became a lobster,” says Colbert. Each to their own.
The first thing you encounter as your robot enters the gallery is a huge, shiny, koons-esque, crowned, silver lobster that can only be described as extravagant – and you know what you’re in for. As you navigate further into the gallery, you’re treated to lobsters in all sorts of weird, wonderful, fantastical situations. We’re talking, lobsters in: crowns, flower hats, cactus hats, clumpy shoes, shark costumes, and much more.
What’s more, the cheeky lobster is smoking, texting, buying things – it’s a modern lobster, a consumerist lobster, that Colbert is presenting to us. Hope of Love is a particularly interesting piece: it shows a lobster and an octopus brutally farming hundreds of fish on a surreal, stormy day. This sort of seafood-cannibalism is oddly uncomfortable viewing, raising questions about society’s own fish consumption whilst also referencing the biblical draught of fishes in the Gospel of St Luke.
Colbert’s unique talent is in merging traditional references with modern; throughout his works we see references to Matisse, Van Gogh, Monet and so many of the greats, intertwined with symbols of hyper-consumerism. It is this juxtaposition that makes his work so distinctive, and somewhat jarring. Be warned, this exhibition shines an unflattering light on modern mass consumption – of meat, of media, of brands.
You get a sense of the frantic reality of the modern age; brands such as Coca Cola, M&Ms & Adidas are littered throughout, alongside emojis, computer windows and multi-media chaos. We don’t want to give too much away, but the epic canvas’ of Hunt Scene II and VIII are worth your attention.
If the idea of a lobster universe, however, doesn’t float your boat – we should say that this exhibition is worth it just for the tech experience itself. The robots are remarkably easy to control and allow you to absorb the gallery almost as if you were walking around the exhibition yourself – moving closer and further away from the art pieces to shift your perspective. You’re also able to pause and really explore the works at your own pace.
While it may have been brought about by COVID, the best part of this robotic technology model is that it opens up exponential possibilities. Colbert points out that it makes galleries infinitely more accessible to those with physical disabilities, while also meaning that galleries in the future could operate on a 24-hour basis and market themselves to an international audience.
Whether this sort of art is your cup of tea or not, you can’t deny that it’s art of the future. We take our hat off to Colbert and thoroughly recommend you give it a whirl, while you still can.
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