This captivating durational duet pairs dancer/choreographer/engineer Catie Cuan with an industrial robot arm for an eight-hour dance performance that unfolds over the timespan of a single American workday, beginning at 2pm and concluding with an artist talk with Cuan and Goldberg at 10pm, moderated by NS+ curator Elena Park.

LIVE AT NATIONAL SAWDUST // 2:00pm - 11:00pm (10pm artist talk)
December 16, 2023
2:00 pm
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This captivating durational duet created by dancer/choreographer/engineer Catie Cuan and artist/researcher Ken Goldberg pairs Cuan with an industrial robot arm for an eight-hour dance performance that unfolds over the timespan of a single American workday. The event begins at 2pm and concludes with an artist talk with Cuan and Goldberg at 10pm, moderated by NS+ curator Elena Park.

Performed to a soundtrack including original compositions by Peter Van Straten, Breathless will contrast the beauty, strength, and frailty of the human body with the relentless precision of machinery. In the debut of their ambitious new piece, Cuan and Goldberg address the historical, cultural, and emotional complexity of our collective fears about artificial intelligence and the future of human labor with the significant technical gaps that remain between science fiction and contemporary robotics. At the conclusion of the eight-hour ritual, the artists will join NS+ Curator Elena Park for a conversation, including audience Q&A.

The Breathless premiere at NationalSawdust+ was made possible by the generous support of Kathryn and Emmanuel Morlet and the Westcustogo Foundation, which supports the series.

Breathless: Catie and the Robot is co-commissioned by Jacob’s Pillow and NationalSawdust+.

It is also sponsored, in part, by UC Berkeley’s AUTOLab. Breathless is a sponsored project of Jacob’s Pillow, where it was developed, in part, in the Pillow Lab.

The robots are graciously loaned by Universal Robots.

About NationalSawdust+ 

Often topical and always imaginative, NationalSawdust+ is a lively performance and conversation series in which artists and thinkers share their passion for music and explore timely ideas, making surprising connections. Since National Sawdust’s inception, NS+ has been a home for intimate stories and unexpected artmaking, blurring boundaries between genres and disciplines. Last season, NS+ presented For Nature, three programs with artists and musicians, scientists, and activists spotlighting works connected to ocean, land, and the animal kingdom; native and indigenous wisdom; and recent research and ways forward.

Curated by Elena Park, NS+ taps luminaries from theater, film and visual art, literature, science and beyond, to create insightful programs that reflect their own interests. Guests have included Jad Abumrad, Ava DuVernay, Tiokasin Ghosthorse, Min-Jin Lee, Yo-Yo Ma, Nico Muhly, Carl Hancock Rux, Gabriella Smith, Patti Smith, esperanza spalding, Carrie Mae Weems, Marina Abramovic + Laurie Anderson, and Caroline Shaw + Anthony Roth Costanzo + Gandini Juggling. Jeff Tang is consulting producer for the series.

Header photo credit: Adam Lau


Photo: Angelica Dass

A choreographer, dancer, and roboticist, Catie Cuan is a pioneer in the nascent field of ‘choreorobotics’. She recently completed her PhD in the Mechanical Engineering department at Stanford University, where she also earned a Master’s of Science in Mechanical Engineering. Her artistic and research work focuses on robot learning, human-robot interaction, and dance. She has held artistic residencies at the Smithsonian Arts + Industries Building, Everyday Robots (Google X), TED, and ThoughtWorks Arts. Catie is a prolific robot choreographer, having created performances and art installations with nearly a dozen different robots, from a massive ABB IRB 6700 industrial robot to a tabletop IDEO + Moooi robot. Upcoming this year, Catie will be an Artist-in-Residence at renowned dance festival Jacob’s Pillow and iconic science and arts museum the Exploratorium. Her artistic work has been shown nationally and internationally, at venues such as the Smithsonian, the Ferst Center, Pioneer Works, and Joe’s Pub. As a dancer, she has performed with the Metropolitan Opera Ballet, the Lyric Opera of Chicago, and in dozens of other contemporary, commercial, and musical theater projects.


Photo: Kathrin Miller

Ken Goldberg is an artist and professor of engineering at UC Berkeley who explores the boundaries between the digital and the natural.  His artworks include a live garden tended by a robot controlled by over 100,000 people via the internet, a 1/1 millionth scale model of Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater, and award-winning short documentary films about robots and Jewish identity. Ken's projects have been exhibited at the Whitney Biennial, Venice Biennale, Pompidou Center (Paris), Walker Art Center, Ars Electronica (Linz Austria), ZKM (Karlsruhe), ICC Biennale (Tokyo), Kwangju Biennale (Seoul), Artists Space, and The Kitchen (New York). Ballet Mori, an improvisational performance work created with dancer Muriel Maffre, engaged the Earth as a living medium and conductor for dance (winner of the Isadora Duncan Award, 2007). He is Founding Director of Berkeley's Art, Technology, and Culture Colloquium and has held visiting positions at San Francisco Art Institute, MIT Media Lab, and Pasadena Art Center. Ken was awarded the National Science Foundation Young Investigator Award in 1994, the NSF Presidential Faculty Fellowship in 1995, and was named IEEE Fellow in 2005. His work is in the permanent collections of the Berkeley Art Museum, the Nevada Museum of Art, and the Whitney Museum. Ken is represented by the Catharine Clark Gallery in San Francisco. Ken's upcoming exhibition with Tiffany Shlain, "Ancient Wisdom for Future Ecologies," will be included in the Getty Museum’s "Pacific Standard Time: Art & Science Collide" (PST ART) art event in Fall 2024 at The Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles.


Photo: Brigitte Lacombe

Director, producer, and NationalSawdust+ curator Elena Park has moved freely through the worlds of arts, culture, and media throughout her colorful career. Last spring, she conceived and directed Visual Cavafy, a series of visual poems screened at the New Museum as part of the Onassis Foundation's Cavafy Festival, showcasing the talents of Taylor Mac, Julianne Moore, Caroline Shaw, and Carl Hancock Rux with Daniel Bernard Roumain, Bora Yoon, and Jeffrey Zeigler, among others.

Elena’s director/executive producer credits include eight In Song video portraits for San Francisco Opera, featuring Pretty Yende and Jamie Barton; Cleveland Orchestra’s In Focus performances ranging from Mozart to Debussy to Unsuk Chin, conducted by Alan Gilbert and Jane Glover; Vân-Ánh Võ for Stanford Live; and Jake Heggie's Intonations for the Cabrillo Festival. For the Metropolitan Opera, she is Executive Producer of the Saturday radio broadcasts and was Supervising Producer for the first 140 shows in its worldwide Live in HD series.

The daughter of Korean immigrants, Elena founded Lumahai Productions, an independent consulting and production company, to embrace opportunities for artistic collaboration and social change with artists, thinkers, and communities as well as institutions, large and small. Selected roles: Curator for San Francisco Opera's INSTIGATORS; Supervising Producer for San Francisco Symphony's MTT25: An American Icon; Special Advisor for …(Iphigenia); Artistic Consultant for the Kennedy Center; Executive Producer for WNYC Radio; and Strategic Advisor for Cambodian Living Arts, Meyer Sound, and San Francisco Opera. TV/film credits: Bel Canto, Amazon's Mozart in the Jungle.

UC Berkeley’s AUTOLAB 

UC Berkeley's AUTOLab  is a center for research in robotics and automation sciences. The lab supports approximately 30 postdocs, PhD students, and undergrads pursuing projects in robust robot grasping and manipulation for warehouses, homes, and robot-assisted surgery, focusing on methods at the intersection of analytic theory (eg, geometric and statistical models, motion planning) and deep learning.

Dec 16

NationalSawdust+ presents 'Breathless: Catie and the Robot' An eight-hour modern dance homage to physical labor - Created by Catie Cuan and Ken Goldberg