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Ingenious. Philosophical. Witty.
These words aren't usually applied to machines, but they are apt descriptions of sculptor/inventor Arthur Ganson's whimsical mechanical sculptures that will be featured in a long-term installation at the MIT Museum.
"Gestural Engineering: The Sculpture of Arthur Ganson" opens Friday, Jan. 10 with a public reception from 5-7pm in the MIT Museum's main exhibition center. Mr. Ganson, who is an artist in residence at MIT, will give noontime gallery talks on February 5, March 5 and April 2.
Mr. Ganson, who describes himself as a cross between a mechanical engineer and a choreographer, creates contraptions from materials including delicate wire, welded steel and concrete. Most are viewer-activated or driven by electric motors. All are driven by a wry sense of humor or a probing philosophical concept.
In Machine with Wishbone, a real chicken wishbone pulls the very mechanism responsible for its movement. Another sculpture writes the word "Faster" with a pen. Other works explore the nature of oiled surfaces, slow explosions, and the organic implications of slow-moving rope and chain.
In a lengthy article published earlier this year in Smithsonian Magazine, author David Simms described the sculptor's work as "retrotechnol-ogy with a 19th-century quality. No lasers, no subminiaturized computer wizardry. What you see is what you get. Kids love Machine with Wishbone because it's funny, odd and ingenious. Many adults, on the other hand, see pathos and tragedy as the enslaved little bone drags the clanking contraption behind it. Rube Goldberg meets Jean-Paul Sartre."
"We read objects in motion on both the objective and subjective levels," said Mr. Ganson. "A machine may be about fabric or grease, but it may also be about thick liquid and sensuous movement. A bit deeper, it may be about meditation or the sense of release. And taken yet another step, it may be about pure invention and the joyfulness in the heart of its creator."
A longtime Boston-area resident, Mr. Ganson has held residencies in science museums, collaborated with the Studebaker Movement Theatre, and been featured in one-man shows at the MIT Museum, Harvard's Carpenter Center and the DeCordova Museum in Lincoln. He is also the creator of the popular foam construction toy, Toobers and Zots. In September 1997, an exhibition of his work opens at the Ricco/Maresca Gallery in New York.
Mr. Ganson's residency at MIT is sponsored by the MIT Office of the Arts in collaboration with curricular departments and the MIT Museum. For further information, call the exhibition hotline at x3-4444.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on January 8, 1997.