Impossible Machines

Graphite Drawings, 1990 to 1992

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Impossible Machines Statement

My interest in making technical drawings and graphite sketches of machines began when I was an undergraduate student. During my BFA, I discovered the work of Leonardo DaVInci. His paintings were nicely done, but the works that really interested me were his sketches of natural phenomena, anatomical studies, war machines and inventions. The drawings are wonderfully imaginative and provide a glimpse into the mind of this Renaissance genius. To me, DaVinci seemed to have an almost superhuman power to observe and imagine how physical laws impacted the world of objects and how forces can be harnessed to serve mankind. I was especially drawn to his technical drawings: sketches that made explicit the details and inner mechanisms of a self-propelled cart, a submarine, a helicopter, siege devices, missile launchers and war machines. I really believed that if DaVinci had been born four hundred years later (after the Industrial Revolution instead of before it) he would have had access to technologies that could make his machines a reality (steam power for instance). DaVinci's innovations might have hastened the space age, in which case we would be walking on Mars by now!

In my own artwork, I imagined machine–like sculptures that were capable of marvellous commotion: moving gears and fly wheels interacting with projected images and flexible hoses powered by compressed air. Although the mechanisms would serve no practical purpose, they would appear very purposeful as they whirred and hummed in a way reminiscent of a science fiction movie or a futuristic distopia rife with somewhat sinister technologies: Orsen Wellls' "War of the Worlds" meets Terry Gilliam's "Brazil".

I went so far as to build one of my simpler machines. I created a large metal cone with a complex skeleton of struts and ties and then I placed a device inside of it. The device was a glass sphere filled with a rare gas through which a mild electrical current flowed (such objects are now common in curiosity shops and at science fairs). I had intended to cover the top with stone with a centred hole suitable for looking through, but when I stepped back to examine my creation it reminded me of the warp core of the star ship Enterprise. I decided that I needed to rethink the whole idea and, for now, my DaVici-inspired devices would have to remain theoretical. They are my impossible machines.

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© 2016, Terry Reynoldson