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Machine Art in the Twentieth Century$
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Andreas Broeckmann

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780262035064

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262035064.001.0001

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Toward the Art and Aesthetics of the Machine

Toward the Art and Aesthetics of the Machine

(p.47) 2 Toward the Art and Aesthetics of the Machine
Machine Art in the Twentieth Century

Andreas Broeckmann

The MIT Press

This chapter provides an analysis of the basic aspects of an “aesthetics of the machine”. It focuses on two pivotal moments in the twentieth century history of machine art, one being the 1968 exhibition “The Machine as Seen at the End of the Mechanical Age”, curated by Pontus Hultén. The other example is the opening scene of Filippo Marinetti’s first futurist manifesto, published in 1909, in which the advent of futurism is marked by a symbolically charged car accident that preceded Marinetti’s hymn to the new technical culture. From here, and drawing mainly on artistic examples from Hultén’s exhibition (incl. Francis Picabia, Marcel Duchamp and Jean Tinguely), the author highlights five distinct aspects that have characterized the “machine aesthetic” until the 1960s: the “associative” reference to the social meanings of technology, often used to make a provocative claim against the assumptions of artistic ingenuity; the “symbolic” reference to mechanics as a way to describe aspects of human culture and psychology; the “formalist” appraisal of the beauty of functional forms; the play with “kinetic” functions as a way to broaden the expressive potentials of sculpture; and the “automatic” operation of machines that underpins their functional independence and their existential strangeness.

Keywords:   machine aesthetic, Pontus Hultén, formalist, kinetic, interactive, automatic, The Machine as Seen at the End of the Mechanical Age, Jean Tinguely, solitude

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