Can't Help Myself Robot

In the art piece “I Can’t Help Myself,” Sun Yuan and Peng Yu explore how people and machines connect, making us think deeply about how technology affects our daily lives. This artwork uses an industrial robot at its core, continuously pouring red liquid into a small space, showing the struggle between humans trying to control things and the unpredictable side of nature.

The artwork shows the repetitiveness of many jobs today and the difficulties people face. Some see it as making fun of strict rule and surveillance, while others view it as a representation of feeling overwhelmed and a pointless fight. The piece became popular on TikTok in 2021, stirring emotions in users who could relate to the robot’s seemingly purposeless existence.

In simple terms, the artwork “Can’t Help Myself” makes people talk about machines taking over jobs, surveillance, and how it’s getting hard to tell the difference between humans and machines in our digital world. The powerful images and deep meanings in the artwork make us think about how humans and machines are dealing with each other in today’s world.

What is the backstory on the “can’t help myself” robot’s creation?

The creation of the “Can’t Help Myself” robot by Sun Yuan and Peng Yu is a profound and meticulous exploration of the relationship between humans and machines, as well as societal patterns. Guided by the myth of Sisyphus, the artists construct a robotic factory that contains a deep-red liquid within a fixed cubic volume, allowing viewers to witness the struggles of modern society through repetitive and seemingly futile actions, echoing the theme of hopelessness.

Initially programmed for the Guggenheim Museum in 2016, the robot’s movements were intricately designed to give the impression of a living entity inside its mechanical body. Over time, through interactions with audiences, Hydraulic Man experienced the depletion of its hydraulic fluid in 2019, appearing tired and desperate. This evoked sympathetic feelings among viewers, who empathized with the plight of this perpetually struggling robot.

The video became popular on TikTok, and this emphasized its importance, leading to talks about machines taking over jobs, constant watchfulness, strict rule, and how it’s becoming unclear where humans end and machines begin. “Can’t Help Myself” makes us think about the complicated relationship between humans and machines and what might happen if machines become too powerful.

What is the message conveyed by the “can’t help myself” robot?

The “Can’t Help Myself” robot tells us a lot in a complicated way, making us stop and think about our world. In their artwork “The Cage,” Sun Yuan and Peng Yu point out and criticize problems we face today, like machines taking jobs, constant watchfulness, and how we might depend too much on machines. The ceaseless work of the robot sealing the liquid surface serves as a metaphor for human endeavors to control the unpredictable forces of nature and the monotony often found in contemporary employment.

Furthermore, the artwork prompts viewers to contemplate the notion that artificial intelligence (AI) could surpass human capabilities, leaving humanity with diminished control over a technologically dominated future. The virality of the robot on TikTok in 2021 accentuated its relatability to users, portraying it as a symbol of a purposeless existence in a labor-driven digital society, eliciting emotions and reflections about their own lives. In essence, “Can’t Help Myself” serves as a literary device aimed at encouraging the audience to self-assess their attitudes toward technology, ponder the societal impact of automation, and delineate the boundaries between humans and robotics in the contemporary era.

How has the “can’t help myself” robot been received by the public and critics?

The work of art titled “Can’t Help Myself,” created by Sun Yuan and Peng Yu, has garnered critical attention from fans and critics worldwide. Initially conceived and commissioned by the Guggenheim Museum in 2016, the industrial robot in the artwork tirelessly exerts its strength to confine a deep-red liquid to a specific space, illustrating the ongoing struggle between human control and the impossible task of taming nature. The robot’s repetitive actions and the continuous spills of the liquid convey themes of failure, boredom, and the challenges faced when humans and machines collaborate.

 Public Reception:

  • In 2019, the robot’s deliberate slowdown resonated with viewers, eliciting empathetic and melancholic responses. Many interpreted the robot as a poignant symbol of meaninglessness or a lack of purpose.
  • This artwork gained widespread attention on TikTok during the fall of 2021, with users across the platform sharing short videos of the robot’s actions, drawing connections between the robot’s seemingly endless task and their own experiences of continuous job-related struggles.
  • Emotional reactions were expressed vividly on social media, with users using descriptive language to convey the parallels between the robot’s repetitive actions and their own persistent feelings of despair.

 Critics’ Perspectives:

  • The critics have praised “Can’t Help Myself” for its ability to provoke people’s reactions and stimulate discussions on topics such as automation, surveillance, and human-machine relations.
  • The artwork has been portrayed as a statement on principles like dictatorship, surveillance, migration difficulties, and the technological influence on society.
  • Some critics have initiated discussions on symbolism in the painting, focusing on contrasts, such as the juxtaposition between human creation and nature’s wildness, as illustrated by the motionless robot.

“Can’t Help Myself” has become an interesting subject for debates and analyses about technology, automation and, overall, humanity. By inspiring such strong feelings as well as through contemplation and reasoning, it becomes evident that this artwork is a very powerful and thought-provoking piece standing alive in the midst of contemporary art.

Can't Help Myself Robot

How has the “can’t help myself” robot been interpreted by different audiences?

The “Can’t Help Myself” robot installation by Sun Yuan and Peng Yu has been interpreted in various ways by different audiences, sparking discussions and emotional responses:

Public Sympathy and Empathy:

  • People have mixed feelings towards the robot as they feel for it because of its human qualities but a very strong wish arises in them to help this robot out, due to this, the people end up empathetic and compassionate.
  • TikTok users addressed both sadness and empathy for the robot’s apparent meaningless existence and in some cases, they relate its struggles to their own lives.
  • The happenings were deeply felt by the viewers with a slow-motion death of the robot when it ran out of hydraulic fluid in 2019, leading to social media tributes and other emotional responses on social media platforms.

Critiques on Contemporary Issues:

  • Others may see the art as a reflection of autocratic nature, surveillance, migration problems and political objectives of border control.
  • On the other hand, installation is considered to be a mirror of mental health struggles, people’s self-absorbing inclination as well as governing authoritarianism due to political motives.

Reflections on Human-Machine Relations:

  • “Can’t Help Myself” explores the relationship between humans and artificial intelligence (AI) and the call for redefining the role of the humans in the society after we witness the machines intelligence to be higher than human intelligence.
  • The art piece, however, which represents the struggle between man’s control and nature’s uncontrollability. It invites visitors to contemplate the profound impact of the relentless technological advancement on our well-being.

Interpretations of Anthropomorphism:

People think of the robot in a human-like way, and that makes them feel emotions and a connection to its emotional journey. This artwork also reflects real-life challenges, like feeling bored at work, dealing with mental struggles, and doing tasks that seem meaningless all the time in our society.

The movie ‘Can’t Help Myself’ has made a significant impact on audiences, prompting introspection, empathy, and critical reflection on various topics such as human-machine relations, surveillance, automation, mental health, and existential challenges.

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What is the meaning behind the “can’t help myself” robot’s movements?

The “can’t help myself robot,” the artwork by Sun Yuan and Peng Yu implies the symbolism, whose meanings may come into existence among viewers and critics.


  1. Border Control and Surveillance: According to the official Guggenheim website, the abstract work is linked to current debates on immigration and sovereignty. The robot’s seemingly absurd task of containing a red liquid can be interpreted as a metaphor for people being confined by authoritarian forces misusing their power to enforce immigration control and surveillance agendas.
  1. Automation and Monotony: The film reflects on the monotony of modern jobs and the lack of meaning in these tasks, connecting with discussions in today’s society. The repetitive movements of the robot symbolize the repetitive nature of certain jobs, allowing viewers to relate their own experiences. Through this lens, the interpretation highlights the prevalence of automation, professional stagnation, and limited job opportunities.
  1. Human-Machine Relations: The clash between the robot’s precisely mechanical features and the unpredictable nature of the spilled liquid underscores a fundamental challenge related to the notion of human control over unpredictable forces. The title “Can’t Help Myself” highlights the automatic or one-dimensional nature of the machine’s task, alluding to the intricacies of human-machine interfaces.
  1. Anthropomorphism and Emotional Response: At times, the audience may project human emotions onto the robot, leading to specific reactions like sadness, despondency, or playfulness in response to its movements. This anthropomorphism evokes emotional responses from the audience, creating a deeper and more complex experience with the artwork.

In this way, the movements of the “Can’t Help Myself” robot serve as a multi-faceted critique of contemporary issues, including authoritarianism, automation, surveillance, human-machine relations, and societal struggles. The artwork’s ability to evoke various interpretations not only attests to its significance but also prompts reflection among viewers and critics alike on the intricate complexities and paradoxes of our technologically driven world.

By Robots Science

Robots Science brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the world of robotics and artificial intelligence. With a keen interest in the latest trends and developments in this field, We are committed to providing readers with insightful and informative content that helps them stay up-to-date on the latest advancements in robotics and AI.