An interview with an american magazin:
Mag: How do you work, do you have a general plan?
Ha ha, great question! It would maybe be insulting to a robotmaker, but thank god you ask an artist. I try and keep it short.
What got me into making sculptures from scrap metal in the first place was the absence of a plan. The shapes of the parts which come my way make the sculpture. It is this element of chance which i find so exiting. Its a game of chaos. I call it mutation. The more life i get out of a bit of scrap metal, the more i score.
Robotic sculptures are an evolution of this, in where the freedom of the sculpture gets compromised by gaining control (because i need hinges in specific locations and i need specific parts. Pneumatic pistons, valves, pipes....). And with the control comes a plan, cant avoid it.
It already starts with the descision to make, say, a robot drummer. I just fantasize and check out what i would like to see. With the drummer i decided to go for a kind of child fantasy robot, you know, close to us humans, not too abstract.
Thats when i start making sketches and zoom into structure, levers and hinges. I only do rough sketches...without numbers and then start building. The problems show in the build and the solutions for all the individual tasks become an interesting organic-like composition of its own.
(For example when i build the drummer: I build the columns for the arm mounts (the shoulders) out of thick pipe but they straight away turned out to be too "springy". For support i added four metal fins to each column, which i spiraled up to the shoulder. The fins stopped most of the spring but even better turned out to be very pretty! It is one of my favorite parts of the sculpture.)
So yes, i have a general plan but its a very general one. The build is like following a maze where i have to make and connect loads of different bits while not loosing track of how it affects the overall organism. It just takes forever! But i have a lot of time to think while grinding something to shape. The final build always ens up being far more complex then the sketches, because of all that thinking time : ). I start adding adjusters, supports, dampers, springs..... Engineering isnt the most favorite part of my work, i deal with it as best as i can. The hard part is to ballance all the fine work with the overall shape. I am most interested in the final caracter. Getting to know a new caracter and its abilitys after month and years of building is a thrill.
I hardly buy specific material. Mostly i use ol pipes of any sort for the structure. Robotic sculptures are based on a structural build but the random bits of scrap still give it its final caracter. The element of chaos is also still visible in the "natural growth" of the sculpture by adding all the parts which didnt show in my fantasy but are actually badly needed to make it work.
I generaly would say that my technic is a mixture of fantasy and common sense.
Making these things is an ongoing developement also for me and one of my future tasks will also be to loose some plan again.
Where do you source your parts?
K: I always have my eyes open for shapes which catch my eye. Last time i was in Rome i found a nice little piece of motorbike and carried it around all night. I like using parts which are common in everyday life. I used to swap shapeless scrap for interesting scrap at my old scrapyard but it recently had to close down. My most steady source are my brilliant neighbour mechanics. I look after all their scrap metal and by now they already tell me that a nice "eye" or an "fish tailfin" is coming my way...and we are all happy when they find a bit they remember in a robots face. There is more and more plastic in their bin, so i considered making an elephant out of car bumpers.
Mag: What brand of pneumatics do you use?
K: All of them.
Mag:Has anything in particular inspired the look of your robots?
K: I am very much inspired by Walt Disney, Cartoons, Sesamestreet and the Muppet Show.
As for general inspiration for my art:
I am part of the "no future" generation, growing up in the nuclear arms race in Berlin. Us berlin kids of the seventys knew we would be one of the first ones to go if someone pushed the button. The whole absurdity of it all, you know, having the wall there, and that being normal and then seeing it collapse...i guess i grew up being ready for the postapocalyptical life...i love Mad Max...
My sculptures are postapocalyptic. They live in a world which has become so unnatural that the unnatural and the natural mutates to survive. But in a nice way. I am an optimist and i belive in happy ends.
Most apocalyptical stuff seems pretty dark and some of my sculptures look quite spooky but once they operate they show their silly nature.
Mag: Have you had any injuries from these 'bots or close calls?
K: They never made me go to hospital for more then a day, touch wood, but my hands are defenitly the victim of my job. Often enough i havnt got a finger without an issue and there is blood on any sculpture. When i build them i get sctratched, cut and burned. When i move them i get squeezed and while i repair them i get head butted. Maybe its natural voodoo, haha. Its ok, i dont take it personaly.
Mag: How and why did you start building a robot band?
K: The idea to build a robot band came right after the airpressure moved into my art. That was around 1999. I was introduced into the pneumatics by my closest friend at the time. I had workshop in the same building as a fleemarket and there was a turkish guy who had a bunch of pneumatic zylinders and valves. I had just build a metal mask in where i had challenged myself to use the hinges of two sets of plyers to open mouth and eyes when my friend showed me what i need to make something move- a cylinder, a magnetic valve, a lot of airpressure and a little electricity. I added the cylinders to the face i was just building, and then, suddenly, the face came alive! Even tho i was pressing the button it revealed a caracter of its own and i just had to carry on with building a body (fully movable of coarse) under the head and ended up with a robot. He is now the manager of the "One Love Machine Band", Sir Elton Junk. I was tripping over the word "robot" for a while since the whole affaire is a sculpture but the word "robotsculpture" is a bit long in everyday use. Its ok, i call them robots too and everybody can figure that out for themselves.
The idea to build a band was a common one together with my friend when we where brainstorming what we could do with the pneumatics but we didnt start on the band for many years. I had just became a father and took of for a five year trip around the world in a vintage house truck (http://www.jabbawouk.de/). The robot Sir Elton Junk also came along on the journey. When i came back he started building a drummer and i followed somewhat later with a bassplayer but then it was his turn to become father and he moved and a whole bunch of factors made the band become parallelel projects. His band is older and it focuses more on the engineering and the music making parts (he is a much better engineer), while mine centers more around the sculpture and the expression. His band is called "Compressorhead" (www.compressorhead.com) and it will remain in friendly competion with the "One Love Machine Band".
There is a certain quarel in the art world about the mix of Art and Entertainment. I dont have a problem with that. I belive we live in a time where everything mixes. The world becomes smaller so quickly, its a big remix time. So i mix the classic exhibition with a stageshow. I call it Actionbition. In the Actionbition you can first look and hear and feel the wohle arrangement as a unit when they perform, and afterwards look at them singely as a sculpture to take in their details.
I would like to take it further then the band. I would like to mix the robot band with human artists again. And i would like to also take it in the Varietee direction and show "acts" like a robot tiger jumping thru a hoop. I am discusted that Circuses still rape animals dignity by dragging them around and making them do silly things while in the same time their free relatives face extinction. Our treatment of animals is horrific in any aspect. We treat all
machines much better. In my cartoon world the machines are partly
ashamed of their use...thats why they bail out and join a music
band...and that is why the band is called "One Love Machine Band"...to
promote the syncronization of nature and machines...after all we are all
just a bunch of chemicals on the same planet.