The Automated Breaking Plates Machine
A collaborative art project-installation with robotics engineer Ioannis Kamaretsos, 2016
‘When they don’t know what to say
and have completely given up on the play,
just like a finger, they lift the machine
and the spectators are satisfied.’
The creation of a plot machine (Deus ex machina) was coined from
the conventions of Greek tragedy, where a machine was used to
bring actors impersonating gods onto the stage. The machine
could either be a crane (mechane), used to lower actors from
above or a type of lifting device that would bring them up
through a trapdoor. Preparation to pick up the actors was done
behind the ‘skene’. The idea was introduced by Aeschylus and was
often used to resolve the conflict and conclude the drama.
Although the device is mostly associated with Greek tragedy, it
has also appeared in comedies, whereby a seemingly unsolvable
problem is abruptly resolved by the inspired and unexpected
intervention of some new event, character, ability, or object.
Me and Ioannis Kamaretsos were aiming to reintroduce this
ideological aspect of a plot machine through the presence of a
device that would give a visual possibility to the spectator to
experience a drama event and its solution within a time span of
For the shortest tragedy play ever presented, we decided to use
porcelain plates as protagonists. The common use of plates in
our everyday life is to serve food or to decorate our walls and
selves with them. There is another interesting aspect for the
use of plates in many different cultures though, one that
connects the art of breaking plates to a symbolic perception of
freedom, luck, denial of materialistic existence, anger
One of the weirdest breaking plates tradition exists to this day
in modern Greece. One can experience these plate breaking events
in a live-music pub or in folk festivals, where people order,
besides food and drinks, piles of plates in order to break them.
This plate breaking performance, escorted by music and dance
creates 99,9% afterglow, a plenitude of euphoria and sublimation
not only to the performer but to the bystanders as well.
My idea of transferring the art of breaking plates from a sub
cultural environment to a cultural environment, such as a
gallery space was a successful experiment. Maybe because the
only actual difference between subculture and culture is that
for the latter, one needs to spend tenfold the amount of money
and effort to provide the audience what subculture offers at the
price of a beer.
The result is almost the same though: afterglow, a plenitude of
euphoria, sublimation and an extra reaction – not quite desired;
some babies cried.
Thanks to technology and the robotics expert Ioannis Kamaretsos
who collaborated with me for this automated breaking plates
performance, we have reached, theoretically speaking, the
realization of some of the great expectations of any artist: to
create something that for the artist himself and the bystanders
would generate afterglow, euphoria and sublimation.
I could not name this particular project art, because it has a
final cause, I could not name it technology either, as it has no
actual use in everyday life. I would name it the intercept point
of subculture and culture.
P.S. All plates were harmed during this performance.
Christina Sarli and Ioannis Kamaretsos
The Automated Breaking Plates Machine, video documentation, 2016