Christian Ristow (US) The Drunken Master, 1995; The Subjugator, 1996; The Necropod, 2004; The Six-Legged Walker, 2006; Our Little Family, 2006

Robot performance, 2006

Christian Ristow is a Taos, New Mexico-based artist whose kinetic sculpture and robot performances feature a provocative mix of post-apocalyptic mayhem and playful iconoclasm. Engineered for all-out robotic supremacy, Ristow' s mechanical creatures such as The Subjugator, The Drunken Master, and The Manipulatrix offer a strange new vision of the evolving relationship between man and machine as they challenge the boundaries of art itself.

Clearly, Ristow's robots play a leading role in the brave and expanding world of mechanical art. “Many people, on seeing the things I've built, wonder why I do it. The machines I create are brought to life for really only one purpose: to fight each other and destroy designated sacrificial targets in the course of theatrically staged mechanical performances. By staging shows with themes like Sex and Death, Money/Hate, and the Demise of Humanity, I get to articulate my personal perspective on things sacred and perverse…”

In the performance Robochrist Christian Ristow's mechanical creatures such as The Subjugator, The Drunken Master, Necropod, The Six Legged Walker (used also in a performance in conjunction with Christina Sporrong on stilts), engineered for all-out robotic supremacy, offer a spectacular and strange new vision of the evolving relationship between man and machine as they challenge the boundaries of art itself. Resembling a Hollywood-style special effects show amidst a robotic theatre of the absurd, Robochrist will present an exciting performance spectacle. Prepare yourself for an all-out battle of the senses in this cacophonous display of power and destruction. Machine mayhem!

The Drunken Master was the first radio-controlled machine I built and many people's favorite. It's a four-legged walking machine powered by a single-cylinder diesel engine. Its head--or mouth--consists of thirteen individually cam-articulated stainless steel meat-hooks capable of grabbing and ripping a wide variety of flesh-like substances. It weighs approximately 1400 pounds, and took about three months to build. Named for its unusual and apparently unstable gait, it occasionally lives up to its moniker by flipping over.

The Subjugator is truly a mean machine. It weighs 5000 lbs, is capable of lifting 1500 lbs, can shoot a 15 foot stream of fire, and measures 16 feet tall with its claw pointed straight up. It started life as a Bobcat excavator, but little besides its steel-tracked base remains from this original incarnation. A 37 horsepower V-4 industrial engine breathes life into this beast, running twin hydraulic systems while nestled into a continuous perimeter frame which also serves as the machine's 31-gallon hydraulic reservoir. The custom-built three-fingered claw is mounted on two bus axle bearings, making it capable of free rotation in either direction, even while carrying heavy loads. While other machines may fail in the intensely violent atmosphere of a machine show, rare is the performance in which the Subjugator is not able to drive away under its own power when the burning embers settle.

The Necropod was built in two weeks for the Sci-Fi Channel for a show called Man vs. Machine. The machine is fully functional and fully mobile via wireless control. The show concept was to build a security robot for a junkyard. The question posed to the viewer is “What might happen if artificially intelligent machines decided to turn on their creators?”

Besides performance Ristow is exhibiting a sculpture Our Little Family depicting a specific psycho-familial narrative drawn from the early life of the artist. Mechanical components are mixed with modified store mannequins to articulate this strange story.

Christian Ristow (US)

Raised in San Francisco, the son of a plastic surgeon and a fine-artist, Christian Ristow developed an early and keen interest in the intersection between aesthetics and structure. After receiving a B.A. in Architecture from Columbia University in New York, he returned to San Francisco and began his apprenticeship with the groundbreaking robot performance group Survival Research Laboratories. Inspired by the experience and influenced by the works of sculptor Jean Tingueley, architect Santiago Calatrava, and artist H.R. Giger, Ristow began engineering his own distinctively biomechanical creations. After moving to Los Angeles in 1998, Ristow put his robots to work, orchestrating a series of solo shows exploring themes of unchecked power, sexual aggression, and human mortality.

Ristow’s high-octane art has been seen at venues ranging from The Bergamot Station Gallery Complex in Santa Monica to The Blasthaus Gallery in San Francisco, from The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Southern California to the Automatic Art Space in Phoenix, Arizona.

His work has been featured in books like Robo Sapiens and Body Probe, in magazines such as Wired, Los Angeles Magazine, National Geographic, Spin, Raygun, Penthouse and Bizarre, as well as on Current TV and The Discovery Channel’s Monster Garage and Monster Nation. His commercial robotic work has been featured in Bicentennial Man, Stephen Spielberg’s A.I., Spider-Man 2, and Zathura, among other feature films and television commercials.

In early 2006 Ristow relocated, along with his robots, to Taos, New Mexico, where he is building a new home and workshop.