The Incredibly Fragile Machine (h2so4 11)
art by Arthur Ganson
When we think of the fragility of machines we think only of their
breakdowns, their ability to disappoint, to thwart our purposes,
to fail us. We experience their fragility as a transgression against
us, against progress, against effectiveness and effect. We are
selfish with regard to machines. We demand more from them than
lovers, we rely on them more surely than family.
But Mary Shelley was not wrong. If they betray, disappoint, fail
or otherwise "act humanly" toward us we should not be so ready
to level the blame at their gears. Yet it is never easy to put
on the other shoe, particularly when that shoe is a valve or sprocket
or bolt or casing. As machines become increasing large and increasingly
small and increasingly invisible, transparent and inevitable,
it becomes more and more impossible to remember how fundamentally
delicate they are. But Arthur Ganson has not forgotten.
Ganson's kinetic sculpture "The Incredibly Fragile Machine" is
a reminder of our responsibility to love and to cherish the machine.
The work is effective in this respect not because it is delicate
and beautiful and sublime but because it is true. A lyric of petite
wire gears turning slowly against each other evinces the notion
that to have an impact necessitates that one must be in contact,
direct contact, cog to wheel, flesh to flesh, alloy to composite.
Machines do not fabricate questionable notions of cause and effect.
The gears and levers and parts act in concert, never leaving each
other, never straying, varying occasionally in symbiotic response,
and yet they do so all without losing their independence as parts.
Parts of a piece. We would be wise to remember this more often.