I first saw the Chinese farmer/ robot maker Mr Wu in a documentary by the British comedian Paul Merton back in 2007. My second encounter with Wu was the current exhibition “Cai Guo Qiang – Peasant Da Vincis” ((www.jellymon.com)) at Rock Bund Museum in Shanghai.
After a few fairly confusing telephone conversations between Joan (in our Beijing team) and Mrs Wu (“ Robot Widow” in Paul Merton’s words), we were set on a journey to visit the mysterious farm of robots and Mr Wu.
It was a Sunday, 40 degrees underneath fake palm trees in Beijing, we were greeted passionately by his two dogs (they could be made out of a stuffed Chow Chow and something else). There stood Mr Wu Yu Lu among his robots and pieces of metal parts all over his courtyard. We were invited to his living room… is like a shrine – four walls full of his pictures on television, with foreign journalist, I am sure Paul was up there some where. Mr Wu demonstrated some of his classics and the latest work.
Shine and Joan with Mr Wu and the legendary “Wu Lao Er Shi Wu” (Wu’s 25th son), he enjoys taking his dad out shopping.
A boy robot that lights cigarettes and tell you off for smoking.
This is the big brother of the Smoking Robot (smaller in size but he was the first generation of robot that Mr Wu made that could accurately light up a ciggy). I named him Toastie… Toastie has a baby face he’s older than you think!
Check out the rat robot on the far right, he walks around and humps anything with legs.
A Barbie-like doll that climbs up and down the ladder.
This one just happy walking and waving her arms about, but creepily identical with Mori – designer in our Shanghai office.
A boxing glove and a fan?! This girl will fan you while she massage you. Sounds pretty good as long as you don’t look at her face…
Not in the picture: A robot that writes Chinese Calligraphy and paint; a robot that plays “Er Hu” (Chinese musical instrument); a suicidal robot that likes to jump off buildings…
Something about these robots, so much fun and love with their daddy, few hours in the hot sun with Mr Wu, we sensed an incredible loneliness and frustration, I think creativity is a lonely process whether you are in a farm or a studio. There is child-like innocence and sinister twinkle in Mr Wu’s eyes, the two important factors for us to start an interesting collaboration.
To be continue…