The aesthetics of electromechanical failure

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by Ken Goldberg on April 30, 1997 at 22:09:01:

On page 12 of Ken Feingold's inspirational MOMA lecture
he describes how the robots in his "where I can see
my house from here so we are" installation
began to break down, running in circles and losing their voices etc.

This reminds a bit of Tinguely's Homage to NY at MOMA, where the
entire construction fell apart and caught fire on opening night.

Alan Rath spoke at Berkeley recently and I asked why all the wires
are always so neat and clean. His answer is that this is the best
way to make sure his machines keep working.

It seems a majority of technology artists share the aesthetic of
exposing loose wires and gears etc. that evokes a
Blade-Runner-esque sense of chaos. And they often
treat electromechanical failure as symbolic of industrial hubris.

One surprising thing to me is how well industrial machines work
in the real world, often 24 hours a day under an incredible range
of conditions. Like Borofsky's hammering men, these machines
continue unfazed for years on end. Perhaps there is an
equally interesting aesthetics of electromechanical reliability.

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