“The city is being constructed by an old woman born in 1881 who wants to record all the important events in her life so that she can remember them. Each year that she has lived is designated by a street, and each week is represented by a door. The doors belong to places where important events occurred. The blank doors are for those weeks that she can’t remember. The old woman hopes that out of her memory and forgetfulness, as recorded in the streets of doors, a pattern or sign will emerge and she will one day see the story of her life. Every door opens on a small closet-like space. Only one door in each street of doors leads to the next street. It is therefore necessary to go from door to door searching for the entry door.”
Blake Fall-Conroy: Minimum Wage Machine (Work in Progress), 2008-2010
The minimum wage machine allows anybody to work for minimum wage. Turning the crank will yield one penny every 4.97 seconds, for $7.25 an hour (NY state minimum wage). If the participant stops turning the crank, they stop receiving money. The machine’s mechanism and electronics are powered by the hand crank, and pennies are stored in a plexiglas box.
the machine allows anybody to work (!)
In 1919, Victor Tausk, a disciple of Sigmund Freud, committed suicide by simultaneously hanging and shooting himself. “I have no melancholy,” he wrote in his suicide note, which was addressed to Freud. “My suicide is the healthiest, most decent deed of my unsuccessful life.” His essay, “On the origin of the ‘Influencing Machine’ in Schizophrenia,” which has since become a classic in psychiatric literature, had just been published.
In the article, Tausk described the elaborate mechanical devices that paranoid schizophrenics invent in their imaginations to explain away their mental disintegration. As the boundaries between the schizophrenic’s mind and the world break down, they often feel themselves persecuted by “machines of a mystical nature,” which supposedly work by means of radio-waves, telepathy, x-rays, invisible wires, or other mysterious forces. The machines are believed to be operated by enemies as instruments of torture and mind-control, and the operators are thought to be able to implant and remove ideas and feelings, and inflict pain, from a distance.
Influencing Machines are described by their troubled inventors as complex structures, constructed of “boxes, cranks, levers, wheels, buttons, wires, batteries and the like.” Sometimes these devices are thought to be their doubles, unconscious projections of their fragmented bodily experience. Patients will typically invoke all the powers known to technology to explain their obscure workings. Nevertheless, they always transcend attempts at giving a coherent account of their function: “All the discoveries of mankind,” Tausk asserts, “are regarded as inadequate to explain the marvelous powers of this machine.”
Tausk took his term from an apparently magical device invented in 1706 by Francis Hauksbee, a student of Isaac Newton. His “Influence Machine” was a spinning glass globe, which cracked like lightning when touched, transmitting an electrical spark and emitting a greenish neon light when rubbed—a mysterious luminosity which was called “the glow of life.” These apparently supernatural effects were caused by the introduction of static electricity into a vacuum; it worked like the shimmering vacuum tube of the modern TV. Its psychological incarnation had similarly mesmerizing effects: “The influencing machine,” Tausk wrote, “makes the patients see pictures. When this is the case, the machine is generally a magic lantern or cinematograph. The pictures are seen on a single plane, on walls or windowpanes; unlike typical visual hallucinations, they are not three-dimensional.”
The psychiatrist Hans Prinzhorn began collecting for his famous Museum of Pathological Art the same year that Tausk published his essay (within a year Prinzhorn had acquired forty-five hundred works, which are currently housed in the Psychiatric University Hospital in Heidelberg, Germany). One of these images illustrates an Influencing Machine in strikingly graphic form. The artist was Jakob Mohr, a farmer and hawker suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, and his picture shows someone holding a small box which resembles an old-fashioned camera and transmits something like static at its victim. The structural workings of the contraption are explained in a palimpsest of scribbled notes, which Prinzhorn called “word salad.” The operator, who is thought to be the psychiatrist (he wears headphones so that he can listen in on Mohr’s thoughts), aims a radiation tube at his subject that emits “electric waves” and renders him a “hypnotic slave.” The machine’s energy flows two ways—it is a magnet as well as a gun: “Waves are pulled out of me,” Mohr scrawled, “through the positive electrical fluorescent attraction of the organic positive pole as the remote hypnotizer through the earth.” The appliance’s malevolent power over Mohr is illustrated by a series of childishly drawn arrows and wavy tentacles which unite both men in a painful-looking spasm of electricity.
Tim Knowles - Tree Drawings (2006)
“A series of drawings produced using drawing implements attached to the tips of tree branches, the wind’s effects on the tree recorded on paper.
Like signatures each drawing reveals the different qualities and characteristics of each tree.”