Brain Pickings

Gadget Sculptures: The Afterlife of Devices

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What bionic mosquitoes have to do with vintage cinema and sustainability.

Given the passionate love affair most of us have with our gadgets, we give surprisingly little thought to their afterlife. And when we do, it’s for purely utilitarian concerns of reselling and recycling. But for old gizmos can actually provide a fascinating and unusual canvas and raw material for art. Here are three artists who create fantastic and fantastical sculptures from old gadgets, breathing a new kind of animated whimsy into what was once a mere conduit of communication.

JEREMY MAYER

Artist Jeremy Mayer is part MacGuyver, part Michelangelo. He disassembles old typewriters and reassembles them into fantastic full-scale, anatomically correct sculptures that emanate a kind of techno-dystopian romanticism.

He uses no glue, soldering or welding, just pure physics and patience.

I do not introduce any part in the assemblage that did not come from a typewriter.” ~ Jeremy Mayer

Mayer’s sculptures embody the haunting retro-futurism of Fritz Lang’s aesthetic — something particularly timely given this month’s highly anticipated DVD release of the complete restored Metropolis.

MIKE RIVAMONTE

Mike Rivamonte creates delightfully playful robots from vintage cameras, radios, microphones and other antique ephemera, some more than a century old. Each of the robots has its own personality, infused with the kind of charm that Rivamonte’s whimsical touch brings out of the cold metal parts.

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STEVEN RODRIG

Cuban-born artist Steven Rodrig creates sculptures that hit the spot for art lovers, geeks and environmentalists alike. Made of recycled circuit boards and other computer parts, his remarkable creations range from insects to flowers to intricate cityscapes, rescuing PCBs from the landfills they would otherwise haunt for a few thousand years.

My goal is to manipulate each PCB into becoming an organic life form “~ Steven Rodrig

And on an important PSA aside, recycling your electronics is no small matter. Even if you can’t masterfully reassemble them into artistic creations, it doesn’t mean you can’t dispose of them responsibly — just consult this handy EPA guide to e-cycling.

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A Photographic History of Bromance, 1840-1918

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In the spirit of exposing the old-timey roots of seemingly modern concepts — take, for instance, social networking — here comes a historical look at “bromance.”

Contrary to what Judd Apatow movies may lead you to believe, “bromance” is actually an old and surprisingly well-documented phenomenon, as evidenced by David Deitcher’s Dear Friends: American Photographs of Men Together, 1840-1918 — a collection of more than 100 photographs depicting what the era’s comfort levels would have described as platonic male affection.

The book is a treasure trove of early photography gems, including rare daguerreotypes, cartes des visites and vintage photographic postcards, insightfully contextualized by art historian and cultural critic David Deitcher.

Curiously, the images have been longtime prized collector’s items for gay men, who saw in them a sort of indirect validation in lieu of real representation of homosexuality in portraiture — something we covered last week with Hide/Seek, which explores the history of gender identity and sexual difference in art.

David Deitcher writes:

[In the late Victorian period] men posed for photographers holding hands, entwining limbs, or resting in the shelter of each other’s accommodating bodies, innocent of the suspicion that such behavior would later arouse.

Tender and often funny, Dear Friends is both a fascinating timecapsule of an era and a powerful implicit reminder of all the artificial behavioral norms we have since imposed on our conception of masculinity and friendship.

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The Story of Eames Furniture

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Charles and Ray Eames are among the most influential American designers in history, whose contributions to modernist architecture and furniture, as well as graphic design, fine art and film, shaped the American aesthetic for decades to come. Today, we see Eames pervasive legacy in everything from the set of Mad Men to the pages of design history books to the streets of downtown LA.

This fall, Gestalten is capturing the legacy of the great couple in an ambitious and absolutely gorgeous 800-page hardcover volume 13 years in the making, fittingly authored by another husband-and-wife duo, Marilyn Neuhart and John Neuhart. The Story of Eames Furniture is a design geek’s lustful dream, brimming with detailed technical diagrams, glamorous product shots, vintage advertisements, anecdotes and other rare peeks at the Eames’ creative process.

Among the book’s major contributions is that it identifies the Eames’ numerous collaborators, who would’ve never otherwise been credited for their work. From the creative conception of specific pieces of furniture to profiles of individual designers, it’s as intimate a look at the Eames universe as the world has seen.

Going into the Eames’ office was like watching people take their brains out and knead them on their desks like dough.” ~ John Neuhart

In this exclusive interview, the authors talk about everything from the cultural significance of Eames’ work to why Charles hated the word ‘creative’:

It was such a clean breath of fresh air. The furniture was a clear expression of the modern movement that went on in graphics and architecture.” ~ John Neuhart

Grab a copy of The Story of Eames Furniture for the design geek in your life or for your own coffee table. Which, more likely than not, is a distant but palpable descendant of Eames’ legacy.

via Susan Everett

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