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Artist-Robot Ai-Da Detained In Egypt Over Espionage Suspicions

Ai-Da, the robot famous for its art, was detained on the borders of Egypt over suspicions of espionage – before being released.

Ai-Da was scheduled to be in Egypt as a part of the “Forever Now” art exhibition. The exhibition is organized annually by Art D’Égypte, a prominent organization committed to promoting art and culture in Egypt. This year, the exhibition was supposed to be organized at the foot of the pyramid of Giza – the first time ever that such an exhibition was happening at that location. Ai-Da’s show was billed as the highlight of the exhibition.

However, at the Egyptian border, officers noticed that the robot was equipped with cameras and an internet modem. Suspecting that the robot was being used for espionage purposes, it was detained for 10 days by the border authorities. The news soon spread like wildfire, and attempts were made to release it from the detainment. The Egyptian authorities initially proposed to release it if the cameras in her eyes were removed. However, Aiden Meller (art dealer and creator of Ai-Da) insisted that it would be impossible to remove the cameras without damaging the robot. In the end, due to the efforts of British ambassador to Egypt, the robot was released hours before the exhibition and was able to present.

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Ai-Da, completed in 2019 by Meller and Engineered Arts, is a sophisticated robot famed for its art. Due to its specially designed hands, it is able to convert the images captured by its eyes into paintings and drawings.  Since its inception, Ai-Da has presented its works in numerous institutions like Design Museum and Tate Modern.