Taos, New Mexico-based artist Christian Ristow, veteran builder of robots, animatronics, and all things kinetic, creates provocative, interactive pieces like Hand of Man and Fledgling. One of his newest pieces, Face Forward, created for Burning Man 2011, is a 12-foot-tall robotic human face, whose major facial movements can be controlled by viewer participants. Each of the 12 individual movements within the face, like the corners of the mouth, the eyebrows, and eyelids, is a separate mechanism powered by a servomotor and controlled by an individual joystick situated within a semi-circular array of control stations, placed approximately 30 feet in front of the face. Communication between the control station array and the face is wireless.
Ristow was inspired by how expressive the human face is in terms of musculature and how much we can communicate using expressions, without even speaking. Ristow writes, “Face Forward is an exercise in group dynamics. It offers the possibility of collective striving to achieve something which, when seen, will be immediately recognizable to the entire group, and therefore immediately satisfying. … The face will be a reflection of the dynamic within the group operating it.”
Want to see it in person? Ristow will have Face Forward on display at this year’s Maker Faire Bay Area, taking place on May 19 and 20 at the San Mateo Fairgrounds.