Seventeen million hits on a YouTube video that does not involve a cat in any funny way? I had to get to the bottom of this. The internet video of Kristoffer Myskja's "Smoking Machine" had my gears turning with excitement. Take a look for yourself:
I sought and spoke with the artist in an attempt to understand the nuts and bolts of his complex contraptions.
BAPS: Are you really a mechanical engineer masked as an artist? Tell the truth!
Kristoffer Myskja: Hehe… I cannot say that I am a mechanical engineer as my background comes from art, but a lot of the problems I deal with in making my sculptures are tangent to the realm of mechanical engineering.
BAPS: Where did you go to school and what did you study?
KM: First I went to the art academy in Trondheim, but after one year I transferred and completed my Bachelor of Fine Art at the art academy in Oslo. When it comes to my knowledge of mechanics and production of the sculptures, I am self-taught.
BAPS: How long have you been working creatively with machinery and the tools you use? How did you start?
KM: Ever since childhood I have been interested in electronics and mechanics, but I started my art career as a painter. During the first year in the art academy I began using simple techniques to create kinetic sculptures and installations. As time has gone by I have become more experienced and my tools and techniques have gradually become more advanced.
For me it is of importance that I not only employ different components and techniques, but also try to understand them fully. This involves making all the parts, such as screws and gears and stuff, by hand in my workshop. The tools I use, primarily, are a manual old school lathe and a milling machine.
BAPS: Who are your key artistic influences?
KM: Arthur Ganson was in many ways a door opener for me into the field of kinetic sculpture. Jean Tinguely’s way of commenting on the relation between human society and machines have also been an important inspiration. In addition, Gruppo T, an Italian artist collective from the '60s made an impact when I saw an exhibition of them in Rome some years ago.