Anthropomorphism – the attribution of human form or behaviour to a deity, animal or object – tends to make scientists unhappy. To their way of thinking, we have no business referring to a robot, no matter how lifelike, as ‘him’ or ‘her’ (for the record, ‘it’ is the preferred term). That acknowledged, we invite you to meet some of the most beguiling non-life forms you’re ever likely to encounter.
Lost and found
Norwegian-born Christopher Conte was raised in New York, where he still lives. After earning a BA in Fine Art from the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, he spent 16 years working in the prosthetics field, making artificial limbs for amputees. Throughout this time, he created biomechanical sculptures that reflected his passion for biomechanics, anatomy and robotics. In June 2008, he began his career as a full-time artist.
Christopher’s one-of-a-kind works are usually created from a combination of original cast components with found or recycled parts, using a range of materials from bronze to carbon Fibre. Many of the materials used in the aerospace industry and the medical field have found their way into his work.
Whereas a strong connection with future technologies is apparent in all of Conte’s work, ancient techniques such as lost-wax bronze casting have become an integral part of the process. The process of creating just one sculpture can often take weeks or even months.
In 2007, Conte began o. ering his unique pieces for sale through galleries for the first time. A year later, one of his sculptures went on display at the US National Museum in Washington, DC.
Taking silly seriously
Born to artist parents in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Nemo Gould was named after the protagonist in Windsor McKay’s comic strip, Little Nemo in Slumberland. His work has evolved to reflect the images and mythology of comic books and science fiction. Working in parallel with these influences is an irrepressible tendency to collect and dismantle anything with moving parts.
After earning his BFA at the Kansas City Art Institute in 1998 and an MFA at UC Berkeley in 2000, Gould was finally released into the realm of free will..Freed of the constraints of contemporary art education, he quickly threw himself into the pursuit of his childhood dreams..As he tells it: “My work appeals to the 7-year-old boy mind, because I still have one… I take silly very seriously.”
Over the ensuing years, he has produced a prolific body of work that attempts to reconcile the innocent wonder of youth with the dull complexity of the adult experience, using what he refers to as “consumer detritus”..He explains: “Most adults are dangerously lacking in wonder..As we age and learn more of the answers to life’s mysteries, I think we lose part of what keeps us alive..When I am working, I am always trying to make things that can produce a childlike response from a jaded adult.”
Worlds within worlds
Sculptor and designer Lawrence Northey, who describes himself as a "retro futurist", has earned many international awards in his career, including the ASFA Chesley Award and three Spectrum Gold Awards. He has been creating his "worlds within worlds" for most of his life. Northey's earlier creations were colourful and kinetic; his whimsical musical automata entertained the young at heart in Canada and the United States for more than 20 years.
This guy is so meticulous that once he's assembled his metal artwork, he painstakingly deconstructs it, piece by piece, then hand-polishes each component before putting it all back together. His latest project, a nine-character 3D metal diorama, has the protagonist and antagonist straddling motorcycles, poised in anticipation of a showdown.
He's also working on a graphic novel to go with the diorama. While Northey is creating a sculpture, he is simultaneously "writing a story" and developing the character's attributes in his mind. "It helps me breathe life into the metal character if I know its story," he explains. Er… isn't this the anthropomorphism thing again? Absolutely. And your point is…?
According to type
Take a good look at this artist’s work. Does anything seem familiar? If you’re old enough to remember a time before computers, the penny should drop: absolutely everything is fashioned from typewriter parts. Says Mayer of his delightfully quirky creations: “I don’t solder, weld, or glue these assemblages; I reassemble the parts using only the components and mechanical processes indigenous to the typewriter. I’ve come to think of the nearly archaic typewriter as one part of our natural surroundings. All unused and unusable typewriters are the accretions of our activity and our growth – not unlike a termite mound, a bird’s nest or a beehive.”