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In 1934, New York’s Museum of Modern Art opened their famous Machine Art exhibition, featuring industrial objects like gears, bearings, and propellers displayed solely for their aesthetic value. The embedded video is excerpted from avant-garde U.S. filmmaker Ralph Steiner’s Mechanical Principles, which was released only a year earlier, and is very much in the same spirit. If Machine Art was about appreciating machines as sculpture, Mechanical Principles was about appreciating their movements as dance. It’s hypnotic to watch, and quite lovely. [via The Automata / Automaton Blog]

More:
Fascinating 1953 Navy Film Series on Mechanical Computers

Sean Michael Ragan

Sean Michael Ragan

I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I am a long-time contributor to MAKE magazine and makezine.com. My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c’t – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.


4 Responses to A Ballet of Mechanical Movements

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  1. That was almost eerily captivating. It’s kind of cool to see all the things that can be done using simple gears. It helped me understand how a lot of the strange movements I have always been confused about work. I feel like I could explain how a watch works now.

  2. Very interesting video. I could watch it for hours.

    p.s. Small typo: in the second line from below, “Mechanical Principles” lacks an “i”.

  3. I’m a watchmaker and I love Make. And that, truly, was beautiful. Especially set to music.

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