Thursday, June 23, 2011

Engineering Art from 1928

Yesterday I received a set of large drawings from my cousin that were executed by our great grandfather in 1928. He was an engineer, and these are designs for a sewage plant in Florida, drawn in colored inks on paper-covered canvas. They must be seen in person to be fully appreciated, but I've included the photo above so you can get an idea what they look like.

Having viewed little graphic work of this sort from that era, I don't know whether it's typical of the times, or whether this was exceptional. I do know that I've never seen any comparable contemporary work that comes anywhere close to these in visual impact. This man was clearly an artist, as well as an engineer, and he must have been exceptionally dedicated to his work, since these certainly took months and extreme patience to complete.

Viewing these drawings, I find myself comparing the manual process that brought them into being with the process employed currently by draftsmen and engineers, inevitably involving computers. Obviously our way of doing things now is quicker and possibly easier. I say “possibly,” because the overhead expense and labor involved in maintaining computer systems, and keeping workers up to date on software changes, has a way of at least partially canceling out supposed advances in efficiency.

Beyond the consideration of overhead expenses, when I compare the process that begot these 1928 graphics  with the current graphic processes, both of which I’ve had personal experience with, I become acutely aware of what we’re losing and have already lost as we replace manual and mental skills with computer expertise. I’m not arguing that we shouldn’t be making such changes, but I do believe we should be thinking carefully about what exactly is being lost, asking ourselves whether we’re OK with losing it, and, if not, how we can preserve at least some of the traditional qualities of mind and talent that brought these manually generated drawings into existence.

We’re planning a gallery show whose theme will be the presentation of information. These drawings of my great-grandfather's will be included in the show. No doubt we will include provocative material comparing traditional methods of production with current ones. Check back with us later for more specifics.
Kevin Jones

Friday, June 10, 2011


"Clean Coal'" by AnMorgan Curry
I usually avoid political commentary in Mindport's blog, aside from my occasional semi-political rants about noise, or computers, etc. But, as you may have surmised by our display windows, mostly created by AnMorgan Curry, we're not politically unconscious. Far from it. Not a day goes by that I don't read of the horrors being perpetrated in the outside world. It gets to a point that I have to go on vacations from the news. . . although I'm not too successful at it. It's like trying to tear my eyes away from an ongoing train wreck.

The reason I mention this now is because it seems, from observing the publications of many institutions, you'd think business was proceeding as usual, since there's hardly passing reference to this "train wreck" proceeding right in front of our noses. I find myself wondering on a daily basis what small thing can I do to counter the catastrophe. The best answer I come up with is to simply continue our attempt to provide an island of calm and beauty at Mindport, so our visitors can be reminded that better things are possible.

Our society has a way of cutting funding to the arts before anything else, which is perhaps the very reverse from the way things should be. The arts are, in large part, about ideas, beauty and raising consciousness of our shared humanity. We Americans have a cultural tendency let economic expedience take precedence over such values, which can be blamed to a large extent for the economic and environmental catastrophe we see unwinding currently.

Anyone who questions the importance of art should, for example, consider the cinema's ability to educate us about other lives and cultures and to promote conciliation between opposed cultures. Such films as Rana's Wedding and The Syrian Bride, to name two I've viewed recently, highlight cultural differences and suggest how governments contribute to the unhappiness of individuals, not to speak of pursuing frivolous wars instead of helping the citizenry they should be serving. If the political leaders and the CEOs of weapons corporations were the first to march off to war, I suspect the cause of peace would take on a new priority.

I've noticed that when I'm feeling down, one thing that can lighten my spirits is exposure to fine art: music, dance, painting, photography. Witnessing fine art reassures me that someone cares enough about beauty to put creativity first in his or her life, before money or any other consideration. This sort of dedication inspires me to believe that, beyond the deepening disaster, there's possibility for the rebirth of a new regime, motivated by something grander than the bottom line.

Kevin Jones
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