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.

Chick Maxx