While the Gross National Happiness (GNH) of Bhutan has been criticised for being naïve and an attempt to deflect attention from the material poverty of its people, phimosis there is no doubt that its citizens have benefited from the emphasis on well-being and the environment their king has instituted. The advent of television and Internet has nevertheless raised questions of the fragility of this so called “Last Shangri-La”. Part of the success of the King’s GNH is based on the preservation of traditional customs and culture which the spectre of materialism inherent in both on-line and broadcast media threatens to unravel.



The smile detection machine in Thimphu.

Grand Mutual Smiles is an installation that explored networked mediated happiness through an international smile exchange.The project captured the smiles of people and transmitted them across the Internet to display them in the city of Linz in Austria and Thimphu in Bhutan. Using cameras equipped with smile detection technology, installations in both cities progressively captured pictures of smiling people, displaying them both locally and remotely. In both cities the pictures of smiling Bhutanese and smiling Austrians were projected on video screens. The motivation was to encourage people from the respective countries to communicate with each other across the Internet in a non-verbal and humoristic way, by smiling.

The project website can be found here:

Developed in collaboration with Mexican artist Annabel Meagher Castro, symptoms
Crass is an ugly bastardised three wheeled automated robot equipped with pyroelectric, cough
audio and sonar sensors to detect the presence of humans in the vicinity.

The robot has the ability to recall phrases of the Caliban character from the Tempest and direct them to people in the environment. All of these phrases are insults, and Crass has no ability to listen to responses, so communication is one-directional. This is the basis for its (artificial) stubbornness.

Caliban Robot

Rear view of the Crass robot

More information can be found on the project website.