The Art and Sound of Obsolescence

| 7/26/2010 11:44:06 AM

The harvesting machine whirs to life. Mechanical arms extend and retract, rusty cogs knuckle past each other and greasy chains creak on an endless loop. Despite a flurry of clockwork motion, the machinery is immobile. That’s because these spare combine parts have been repurposed as contemporary art, reassembled as interactive music makers, and relocated to the gallery floor. The “Combine Project” is the brainchild of Steven White, an Ontario-based visual artist profiled by Musicworks. White got the idea to convert an obsolete artifact of our agricultural past into a collection of fanciful kinetic sculptures when he and his wife moved to some property in rural Ontario. There they found the farm equipment—specifically a hulking, abandoned 1964 Allis-Chalmers All-Corp combine harvester. Sprockets, gears and valves on many of the pieces are interactive, and when you crank them, the sculptures produce an eerie, mechanical kind of music. Here are a few of White's creations and a clip featuring “Molecular Roulette,” a sculpture that looks and works like a bizarre, 6-foot-long music box. (Right-click the link and select "Save Link As" to download an MP3 of White’s machines in motion.)


"Happy Apple Tree" is a kinetic sculpture made from the odd parts of abandoned farm equipment by Canadian visual artist Steven White.


Made from a segmented drive-shaft cover, "Brian's Arc" is modeled after a human spine in a resting position.


A monstrous piece called "Spider Bark."

Tim Gieseke
7/29/2010 7:30:30 AM

I hope, and I would assume, that Steve appreciated the art of engineering these machines that allowed them to walk along the landscape and consume grains. As a farmer, I have more modern equipment than his 64 Allis, but they still make a kind of music when the dance of the harvest begins.

Pay Now Save $5!

Utne Summer 2016Want to gain a fresh perspective? Read stories that matter? Feel optimistic about the future? It's all here! Utne Reader offers provocative writing from diverse perspectives, insightful analysis of art and media, down-to-earth news and in-depth coverage of eye-opening issues that affect your life.

Save Even More Money By Paying NOW!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. You save an additional $5 and get 4 issues of Utne Reader for only $40.00 (USA only).

Or Bill Me Later and pay just $45 for 4 issues of Utne Reader!

Facebook Instagram Twitter