Dance of the Machines

Eli Whitney Museum

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2018 Summer Program

150 years ago this summer, Henry T. Brown published 507 Mechanical Movements. The Industrial Revolution was transforming the world. Brown's book was a dictionary for the inventors and mechanics who were building the machines to power change.

Brown collected and drew important ways to shape and direct movement. Thomas Edison had just applied for his first patent. So electricity was not yet important. This was the golden age of water and steam power. Nothing was invisible. Brown's book has never been out of print. It still makes visible the inventive mind at work.

Master a dozen of Brown's movements in simple-to-construct interchangeable blocks. Each day take on a simple challenge: what to make of the movement? Learn new tools and tricks each day.

Then combine 2 or 3 or 4 of the movements to create a unique dance or story. Sample the work of artists like Alexander Calder and Arthur Ganson who are poets of this art form. Add a music box mechanism (itself a mechanical masterpiece) to accompany the rhythms of your machine.

The mechanical choreography you master will prepare you for the paths that are often invisible in the digital world.

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