Of all the professions worrying about technology taking their jobs, pole dancers would probably have figured quite low down the list. But strippers the world over will now be looking over their shoulders following the debut of two robots created by British sculptor Giles Walker at the SC striptease bar in Nantes, western France. Their run at SC, during which #R2DoubleD and #TripleCPU will perform with the club’s regular 10 human dancers, will last a month.
The robots, which Mr Walker built from a combination of scrap metal and discarded mannequin parts are, however, no stranger to the entertainment business. And they’ve performed for some high profile clientele so are unlikely to be phased by their latest public. As far back as 2014 the pair flaunted their saucy silicon, replete with stilettos and wiring loosely arranged to resemble suspender belts, for both then UK prime minister David Cameron and German chancellor Angela Merkel at the 2014 German tech show. And last year they put on a show at the world’s biggest technology trade fair – the Consumer Electric Show (CES) in Las Vegas.
Laurent Roué, who has run the Nantes striptease bar for 35 years now booked the robo-strippers because he “wanted to see what would happened,” despite his usual personnel being a little surprised “and perhaps a bit put out too” by their two new colleagues. But as far as the pole dancers at the SC are concerned, they shouldn’t be overly concerned about their employment prospects for now. Monsieur Roué’s motivation is to combine some novelty value with the statement his line of business is not one he believes to be at risk of losing out to machines.
“We are all about humanity in this club and in a way, we want to thumb our noses at modernity. We are one of the few economic sectors where robots will never replace people.”
One big disadvantage Monsieur Roué is convinced the robot strippers are at compared to his permanent performers is that they cannot engage with the club’s clientele by talking to them as well as dancing. Which is possibly one good reason why the SC will be waiving its usual €20 entrance fee over the month which #R2DoubleD and #TripleCPU will take to the stage.
The role of the robots is less to titillate than to provoke thought. With CCTV cameras for heads, Mr Walker, most famous for his art installation The Last Supper in which 13 mechanical figures talk around a table, designed the robots as an exploration of the notion of voyeurism. And specifically “the power between the voyeur and the person who is being observed”.