Kal Spelletich: Significance Machines and Purposeful Robots

"I operate from a distinct sense of activist engagement." -Kal Spelletich


July 25 through December 8, 2019

Reception: Thursday, September 5 | members 5:00 to 6:00 p.m. & public 6:00 to 8:00 p.m.  

The exhibition Kal Spelletich: Significance Machines and Purposeful Robots combines art and mysticism with the rigors of science and technology to explore the power of prayer and other meditative practices through an unlikely form, robots. A leader in the machine art scene, Spelletich has lived and worked in South San Francisco for 30 years. His work incorporates discarded materials and equipment crafted into machines that interact with humans in unexpected ways. 

In this recent body of work, sensors enable the robotic sculptures to react to participants with individual responses and spontaneous movements. Participants can operate the robots by touching an interface sensor that enables the machine to ‘read’ the viewer and react with a responsive gesture. The robots cannot store memory of these movements. This is intentional, Spelletich believes “they are optimistic alternatives that subvert technology’s intended functional use and break the barrier of exclusive access that promotes passive consumption." 

Kal Spelletich was born and raised in Davenport, Iowa. He received his BFA from the University of Iowa, and MFA from the University of Texas at Austin, both in the field of Media Art. He has performed, exhibited, and lectured worldwide collaborating with scientists, musicians, and politicians in Namibia, India, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany, Croatia, France, Czech Republic, England, Slovakia, and Austria.  Most recently, Spelletich was a resident artist at Recology SF and built artificial organs during a residency at Stochastic Labs, Berkeley, California. Spelletich’s work has been included in numerous exhibitions over the past three decades including the de Young Museum, San Francisco, California; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, California; Exploratorium, San Francisco, California; Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, California; and the Headlands Center for the Arts, Sausalito, California. Spelletich is represented by Catharine Clark Gallery in San Francisco, California.

A series of public programs and a publication accompany the exhibition with essays by Anuradha Vikram and Tanya Zimbardo.

Kal Spelletich: Significance Machines and Purposeful Robots is organized by Saint Mary’s College Museum of Art curator, April Bojorquez.


Related Programs + Happenings:


Machines & Mysticism: Artist Dialogue

Thursday, October 10 | 6 to 8 p.m. at the Soda Center

Machine artist Kal Spelletich engages with SMC professor Brother Charles Hilken in a dynamic discussion examining art, spirituality, and technology. Discussion moderated by Natalia Mount. 

Watch Discussion



Artwork Insight | Video Clip

Machine artist Kal Spelletich speaks to his installation work, Strawberry Creek Harp, created in response to SMCMoA's William Keith Collection.

Insights to Strawberry Creek



Resources outside of SMCMoA:

December 10 | 7 p.m. at City Lights Booksellers & Publishers | An evening with Kal Spelletich 


press release

 Mark Pauline in motion is courtesy of Catharine Clark Gallery, San Francisco, California. All other images by Haley Nelson and Patrick Maisano.