Photo by Andrew Wyatt from Apagea 2015

It was a sunny afternoon at the first Vertex Festival in Buena Vista, Colorado, when I sat down by the creek with maker/tinkerer, Shane Evans for a brief interview. Evans identifies with the burner culture here in the United States, and has built industrial interactive art pieces for Burning Man and regional burns in years past, with his biggest project being Robot Ressurection, which towered over patrons in between the main stages during the three day festival. The friendly giant lit up the night with bursts of flame flowing from its hands and mouth. Enjoy the conversation that followed ~

You’re from Maryland — do you still live there?
No, I now live in Denver, Colorado. I left Maryland when I was pretty young.
Nice, so how did you get the gig here with Robot Resurrection?
I originally built this for our regional [burn] here in Colorado, called Apagea. Then people started approaching me, and then I kind of got into the maker fair a little bit, and it fits perfectly in that kind of thing, and I’ve done a couple music festivals.
With this specific robot?
Yes. I got invited through Nova Hahn. I think she’s a curator and I think she does art for a few festivals. So through a friend of a friend, she found us and brought us out.
Cool! Have you always been a maker/tinkerer?
Yeah, pretty much my whole life. As a kid I would take a perfectly good toy that I just got, and I’d have to take it apart and turn it into something it wasn’t supposed to be and here I am, 45 years old, still doing the same thing.
That’s awesome! Is this your job now or just a side project?
I’ve kind of always been a fabricator, welder, artist. I would say yes, this is part of my living. I still make stuff for people. I just build all kinds of weird stuff–I do some of those bicycle bars that people pedal. I’m into motorcycles too. I find a little bit of work here and there.
Are they all bigger projects?
This is definitely my biggest. I’ve got two in mind that I want to do. I never run out of ideas. The problem is finding the time.
Understandable. What was the inspiration behind building this?
Well, I had built some smaller ones. This was when I lived in Brooklyn. There, everybody throws their stuff out in the street, so I was always finding really cool stuff. I mostly work with found or repurposed objects, so I started collecting stuff, and I came up with the idea to build a giant sculpture and put it back on the street–pour some concrete and put some posts in the ground and put this thing back, but it turned out really cool and I knew it would get torn down or vandalized, so I decided to hang on to it. That was kind of the start of the robot. Then I did the small ones and, I don’t know, I kind of just…
Thought bigger?
Yeah. I kind of wanted to do something for Burning Man that was on a really, really large scale, so I decided I wanted to do this big, fuck-all robot that you climb into, shoots fire, and drives around the playa. The driving system, we haven’t used. We used it one time at Burning Man, and it needed some work, so it kind of became a sculpture, as opposed to a moving sculpture. Well, moving as in driving. Once it got out there, we thought we should kind of share a message, which is, let’s not be so wasteful and be such consumers, and not try to make it such a disposable society. The message is that we’ve all become the robots–we are the robots–we’re controlled by the corporations, we’re controlled by the media, we’re told what to buy and what to wear, you know? So, we’re all part of it. I am too.
That’s an important message, and I think this is the perfect place to be sharing it. I have to ask, how did you source the airplane parts?
All the airplane parts came from Denver, Colorado. There was a place there called Duff’s. The guy [who owned it] passed a couple years ago, and this other guy, Dave, bought the inventory–Huge, like 30 acres of airplane parts. Like, one of the largest collections of small airplanes in the world. They were closing down, and somebody took me over there. I had the idea, but it wasn’t until I saw the airplane parts that I was like, “yes!” I immediately saw all the pieces, you know? Having the access to the airplane junkyard was really the only way I think I could have pulled it off. It’s gone now, which is a bummer.
Did they sell everything?
Yeah, development. The story of everywhere.
Yeah, sadly. Have you always worked with flame effects, or did it first come into this project for the first time?
I did a small art car for Burning Man a couple years ago, and that was my first flame effect. A buddy of mine turned me onto it, and I never really thought about it or wrapped my head around the simplicity of it. Once I understood it, then I started experimenting with it and using it. With the robot, all the joints move, so to be able to have the fuel lines not get tied up while it’s still moving, that took a bit of figuring out. I found these swivel joints to it holds the pressure and can also move while the gas is going through it.
What does the control panel look like inside?
It’s pretty much two joysticks that have left and right, which take the arms out, and then up and down which bring them up, and then the joystick also twists, which makes the wrist move. At the top, there’s a fire button, which fires the wrists. The head is puppeteered by hand, and then it has a fire button.

Hell yeah! Would you like to add anything else?

I would encourage people — a lot of people have ideas and they either don’t have the resources or they just can’t get up and do it, you know? But if you have a dream, go fulfill it. If you have an idea, go do it. You can find the resources. All you need is the drive. Go do it, go build it.