Robot mystery solved: Art – much cooler than impending robotic warfare


The mystery of the squashed robots has been solved!  Previously, here and here, I wondered what was up with robots that I’d found squashed in the intersections of Boston.

Boston's Squashed Robot: Memorial, Warning, Failed Invasion?
The first Squashed Robot in a crosswalk on Atlantic Ave. (Bonus: my shoe!)

The 2nd squashed robot.  This time near the Museum of Fine Arts...
The 2nd squashed robot. This one near the Museum of Fine Arts…

Wendy, ever more practical than I am, had the brilliant idea of harnessing the power of Google to find out the story behind them.  And we can all rest easy because it turns out there’s no robot uprising after all!

In fact, these are the work of a street artist, who goes by the name stikman, whose work is in cities across the U.S.  The shape I took to be a squashed robot is his signature and it changes just a bit everywhere it goes.  And it seems to go just about everywhere.

There’s a lot of fun to be had looking for the hidden signature.  It’s not new, of course.  Apparently, stikman has been putting art in cities across the country, generally in unexpected, unobtrusive places, for at least 8 or so years.  But it was new to me because I’ve never really given a lot of thought to street art before.  It’s like playing an enormous game of hide and seek with a stranger.

This is obviously the social worker in me, but my first thought was that the way stikman adds a little bit of understated whimsy to what could otherwise be a boring day of work or running errands makes it a really unique way of strengthening social bonds.  There’s a reason that even multi-billion dollar corporations have someone lead group games to break the ice at conferences, meetings, and team-building events.  When people play games together they get along better because games and humor remind people of their shared humanity.

Now, whenever I’m out and about I’ll have an eye open, scanning the pavement and walls and out of the way corners, hoping to find a stikman.  And whenever I find one I’ll get that same feeling of playing a secret game with the world and I’ll have the anonymous artist to thank for it.  So thanks, stikman!  My family and I are excited to uncover your next appearance in Boston!

Here’s another post on stikman from a blog based out of San Francisco in case you want to read more.