Tim Gruchy is the artist behind the interactive digital artwork SCOUT in Takutai Square, which has recently been jazzed up with some new tech. Tim tells us all about it.

Britomart: SCOUT has just had a renovation. What’s been going on behind the scenes?

Tim: She is getting a new face. SCOUT is coming up for nearly eight years old now. In that time, LED display technology has changed enormously, so we are replacing the LED screen. Otherwise everything remains the same.

Can you tell us a bit about how SCOUT works?

SCOUT, or Sentient Co-realtor of Urban Transaction, is conceptually posited as a sentient off-world benevolent entity that has come to engage with the local community in Takutai Square. Behaviour and responsiveness are two key indicators of sentience. So there is basically a computer and a host of sensors that operate with a degree of behavioural response to the circumstances at any given time. She also knows the time of day, day of the week  and seasons, so these also come into play.

Nearly all the content is mathematically generated, either pre-made or dynamically generated in realtime. The custom program I wrote orchestrates all this.

What made you decide an interactive element was important?

Interactivity has always been a fundamental part of my creative practice. I have consistently worked with sound, moving image and interactively engaging and immersing audiences for nearly 40 years now. It’s inextricable.

What do you hope it communicates to people?

Calmness and curiosity. Calmness because the commercially dominated city environment is already loud enough both sonically and visually. Somewhere like the Square should be a place that allows a moment’s repose from our busy lives. Curiosity because it seems to me it is something the world needs more of. Curiosity to examine the world we live in and perhaps contemplate issues that extend beyond the day-to-day. Art does not provide answers but if it can gently elicit some questions then maybe that is not a bad thing for both the human condition and its long term viability in the universe.

How does it feel to have an artwork like this in such a prominent public space?

It is a great privilege to have a work like SCOUT here in Britomart, which is such a fine standard for urban renewal based on the sound principles of culture and heritage. I am extremely proud of it. She remains a great example of what is possible with adventurous commissioning and the opportunity for an artist to deeply engage with such a rich site.

What are you working on at the moment?

I am presently working on a major new public art commission. It is a permanent five-screen interactive piece for Dreams Unlimited : The Third International Public Art Invitational Exhibition of Hangzhou Bay New Zone (Ningbo, China).

I am also curating a show at the Tank Museum in Shanghai on artists working with AI that opens this December. Plus, the Imminence show I just had in Sydney will be going to Bundaberg Regional Art Gallery in and expanded version alongside my artist brother Mic in February. It’s our home town. So… keeping busy as usual.