Beautiful and Obsolete: Obituaries for the Machine Age
Painter and printmaker Kay Gregg, who lives and works in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Her recent works explores a bygone era of mechanical equipment that dominated the marketplace, only to be replaced by the digital revolution of chips and wireless technology. Now, these obsolete machines become icons of the mechanical age, subject matter for an artist’s dismay at the utter uselessness of equipment that was once thought to be cutting edge.
In the recent past, our lives were filled with single purpose machines. Clocks told us what time it was, radios entertained, telephones passed along conversations. In two decades time these machines are obsolete; in two more, they will be gone.
Second hand shops and church thrift stores are full of devices that were once state of the art machines costing hundreds of dollars. Now they are worth more for the metal inside than any function they could possibly serve. Some required trained users for efficient utilization. Operators of these appliances took pride in mastery of their machines. Now both are fading from the collective conscious. Soon the skills needed to operate these machines and their respective purposes will be incomprehensible to the casual viewer.
The era of the movable part is nearly done. The chip has replaced the gear. Our actions are devoid of mechanical interaction. In the past, the lever, the switch, the button, or the potentiometer provided an extension of our human activities and feedback about where we existed in the process at hand. Our finger pressed a key, a lever slapped a carbon coated ribbon, letters appeared on paper, and an artifact was created.
I have included the machines in my exhibition because they represent an era–a place in history–that represents the last moment before the digital revolution expanded and the machine age contracted. I am inspired by their thoughtful design.