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Retro robots and the remembrance of futures past

Artist Mike Rivamonte likes to create sculpture of robots and other such contraptions out of vintage materials: bike parts from the '30s and '40s, old microphones, TV tubes. The resulting work takes us back to the future.

Mike Rivamonte

Why is it that we seem to be so fascinated by past visions of how the future would look?

There are probably many reasons (some simple, some complex), but one might be that such visions cause us to experience a kind of nostalgia for the forms of our own present--as they never turned out to be.

Instead of the architectural exoticisms of Amazing Stories, we got tract homes and industrial parks. Instead of Gort, we got AVA. Instead of Robby, we got the Roomba.

Whatever the reasons, it seems we can't get enough of these past futures. In fact, we like to create versions of them ourselves--newly imagined past futures. Luke Skywalker's Flash Gordonesque landspeeder comes to mind, as do Dave Stevens' wonderful Rocketeer comics.

And thanks to some futuristic Web technology or other (the future moves so fast these days, I've forgotten which one), I recently stumbled on another fine example--namely, the work of artist Mike Rivamonte. Rivamonte likes to create robots and other such futuristic contraptions out of vintage materials: bike parts from the '30s and '40s; camera straps; old microphones and metering devices; TV tubes.

As he puts it in his artist's statement:

Objects are very powerful and can evoke recollections of memories and experiences. Symbolic, historical, we identify them as a part of who we are or were and assign them significance and value. They can be personal or collective and pass from generation to generation or across cultures. My work playfully explores these relationships, introducing some viewers to objects that have made the journey through time and reconnecting others to memories of their past.

There's definitely a dance of future, past, and present going on here, and the resulting sculptures do indeed evoke memories; they bring one back to childhood--whether one grew up in the '30s or not. They're funny, charming, and sweet. And they bring out a sweetness in the viewer.

Perhaps, then, as we admire the forms of past futures, and pine for a present that never came about, we experience a nostalgia for the person we were, and for the person, alas, we couldn't quite turn out to be.

In any case, the playfulness of Rivamonte's work frees us from such heavy conjecture.

You can click here to take a look at his oeuvre. You'll find not only sculpture but also sketches of his children's book characters Marty and Otto, a pair of endearing aliens who've been known to appear at Maker Faire.

As you peruse Rivamonte's work, you can silently toast past futures--and future, newly imagined, past futures.