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Home / Articles / Arts / Art Features /  TEOTWAKI Strikes
Ristow
Santa Fe Complex’s Re:Make It! proved that artist/roboticist Christian Ristow may soon be the post-apocalyptic warlord ruler of the Southwest. 

TEOTWAKI Strikes

Art nerds (re)make robot overlords

August 19, 2009, 12:00 am

It is widely agreed the human race is in grave danger. One need only go to the movies to witness the fantasies of our collective paranoia. For many of us, destruction is a foregone conclusion.

The fun part is imagining how we’re going to go down. Be it sudden incineration via nuclear explosion, the slow asphyxiation of our ecosystem that follows the crushing impact of an errant comet, the infestation of for-profit schools or socialized medicine, make no mistake, you are in constant mortal peril and each day you survive is a little gift. You are so lucky!

But I’m not telling you anything new. After all, this is New Mexico, home of Los Alamos and Trinity and all the residual Oppenheimery radioactive nightmares that never fade from consciousness. Mass death is part of the culture. So the question is, what are we doing about it?

Re:Make It! at the Santa Fe Complex, a three-day festival that concluded Aug. 9, took the survivalist theme of recycled materials and repurposed technology to a variety of ends, some beautiful and some nightmarish. On the aesthetically pleasing, we’re-going-to-live-through-this side was the installation“Resonance” by Alex Potts. The artist outfitted dozens of gourds with speaker wire, allowing the audience to audibly interact with an organic microphone. A strange shimmery soundscape was produced and evolved in relation to one’s percussive inputs—a fun and sustainable sound system for the hut you’ll live in.

In the clothing department, artist Nancy Judd fashioned a slinky cocktail dress out of Obama signs, an eye-catching number that captured the cultish feel of the president’s supporters. I can’t decide whether this was a sincere gesture of devotion, a tongue-in-cheek comment on hype and politics or a rebuke to our commander-in-chief as we spiral hopelessly toward collapse.

Christian Ristow, apparently, never read any science fiction regarding what happens when humans build robots (Christian, they turn on us!). Either in preparation for the apocalypse or to bring it about, Ristow constructed an unholy army of machines with subtle names such as “The Subjugator.” Sixteen feet tall, replete with claws, flamethrowers, tank treads and no conscience, these things could rip you in half via remote control.

My new overlords were dormant as I stood face to meat hook with them, but it was impossible not to admire the potential havoc contained in the intricate artistry of their construction. I felt very soft and fleshy, and I would like to publicly pledge my allegiance to Mr. Ristow if and when the shit hits the fan.

Striking a related chord is Habitat Machines, a ongoing exhibition by David Trautrimas at photo-Eye Gallery. A thrift store scavenger, Trautrimas, with the aid of a computer and with various household objects for inspiration, creates photographs that seamlessly depict futuristic urban architecture. For example, “The Lamp Factory” is made by using the components of, yes, a lamp; there is also “The Television Factory” and so on.

Though the skill involved in creating these images is admirable, their effect is similar to the architectural renderings one might see on the site of planned condominiums—sterile, evenly lit, kinda creepy. In the best examples, the transformation of the objects is thorough and they transcend the gimmick, but the titles drag the works down, making for a Where’s Waldo? type of game.

“Is that a hole punch?”

Still, the conceit that our refuse can/will be reused to provide strange new housing keeps with the survivalist theme. It seems Doomsday is upon us. I hope you brought your tool belt.

 

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