Tag Archives: mechanical art

Grunge Machines

Grunge Machine is the name I gave to an early electro-mechanical sculpture I made in 1984 when I had a studio in the Citadel Cannery in San Jose California at the edge of Silicon Valley. A broken, run-over-by-car, cassette boom-box called to me as I was “scavenging” with art buddy Raymond Avalos. Our frequent scavenging tours took us along alleys and train tracks where we’d find marvelous materials to make art out of. I felt like the damaged metal framework, abraded wires, cracked plastic should be memorialized in some way that could incorporate the still-working motor. It needed a reanimation that would harken to its previous existence while infusing it with reckless form, rending, tearing it, re-birthing it. I tore down most of what was left and built it back up. New forms and shapes seemed to start oozing out of the scraps. Bending some metal freed up the flywheel, little parts turned erratically-life! Wires tangled into parts of circuit boards, caked with road grime. Some gloss black spray paint began to unify the jumble of junk. Bright red LEDs (many people didn’t know what those were back then) became a theme against the gloss black lending theatricality. It took on the feel of a robot in recovery, limping, getting back to work, though it now had a new mission. It felt a bit boring for the motor to simply run continuously so I wired them up to a custom electronic timer circuit I designed that featured slightly random intervals. Each Grunge Machine is unique, though there have been some sub series developments such as the “Blasted Cassette”. Cassette tape was the common way of listening to music back in the 1980’s so finding busted or discarded mechanisms, such as that first broken cassette machine, became fairly frequent. The humor inherent in rejuvenating wrecked or cast-off devices has long been a popular point with the Grunge Machines, especially along the lines of nostalgia.

To date, parts and mechanisms keep gathering around me so the series continues. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Grunge Machine: Black Blossom, mixed mediums and electronics, 15 x 9 x 7 inches. 120 VAC. No on/off switch-continuously running. 1980’s portable cassette with static audio. Central tassel twitches (video cassette rewind mechanism) intermittently every few seconds. Red LEDs.