Photo by Posterchild.
Last week, passersby at the corner of Queen and Ossington began to take notice of a curious wooden crate protruding from the side of a building. Some gathered around it with great awe and wonder, while others scoffed dismissively, thinking, “So what? It’s a frickin’ box sticking out of a frickin’ wall.”
“Hello! I’m a Betabot. Shall we play a game?” Photo by Posterchild.
Well, shortsighted dissenters, today we urge thee to cease thy slander and derision. For this was not just any ordinary box. This was Betabot 70107, and it just wanted to say “Hello.” Masterminded by street artist (and Vandalist curator) extraordinaire Posterchild, it was equipped with 9,999 variations on old-school videogames (Tetris, Breakout, Tank, etc.) in an attempt to communicate with people via game-play.
After reader Andrew Mcconnachie tipped us about Betabot 70107’s arrival at West Queen West, we were more than eager to welcome the friendly doohickey to its new abode. But when we arrived at the scene, Betabot 70107 was nowhere to be found! Our beloved thingamabob, it seemed, had been kidnapped! Quel horreur!
Several exhaustive search and rescue missions later, we spotted Betabot 70107 lodged in an alleyway on the west side of Ossington, just north of Queen. Godfrey Williams, who runs a thrift sale and bike-repair shop in the alleyway, said he found the bot bruised and beaten on a curb, and brought it into his lair to preserve it. We attempted to communicate with the crippled little contraption, but sadly, it no longer showed any signs of life.
“I feel bad,” remarked Posterchild upon hearing the unfortunate news. “I’m sure the lil’ betabot would be heartbroken to know its attempts to communicate elicited such a violent, uncalled-for response. Fortunately, this model was not equipped with any kind of sensory equipment, and would never have ‘seen’ it coming. The end came suddenly and fearlessly for it.”
Betabot 70107’s brethren lounge around in a secret refuge. Photo by Posterchild.
A tragic and sorrowful occurrence, nonetheless. But will the spirit of young Betabot 70107 live on? You Beta believe it! Posterchild occasionally plants other Betabots in dark pockets of the city, each programmed with different functions based on human communication techniques, including audio and video, projection, gender, and inner-self exposure. Sure, we can’t engage in much extensive discourse with these bots, but by watching each one operate, we can discover a great many subtle things about them (and perhaps ourselves, too). Posterchild hints that two of them are currently standing somewhere near College and Lippincott, where they correspond with one another. “Betabots crave any kind of acknowledgment of their existence, and yearn for communication at any level,” he says.
Meanwhile, Williams is inviting Posterchild to claim the corpse of Betabot 70107 and build another bot in his alleyway, where he vows to watch over it. He has also expressed interest in collaborating with Posterchild on a project he is currently working on, which consists of paper mache mannequins crammed full of electronic circuit boards. “I think his work has a lot of potential and I’m very impressed,” remarks Williams. “Maybe he could do something with my robot mannequins. Like make them work.”
Could this be the genesis of an unstoppable new street-art duo? Time will tell. “I’ll have to think about it,” says Posterchild. “I’m pretty reclusive and shy about meeting new people. But in the meantime, you can tell him he can feel free to make a collaboration [on his own] with the remains of the Betabot! Perhaps it might find new life as a mannequin’s head!”