Rhetoric of Machine Aesthetics

By Barry Brummett | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TWO
Mechtech: Classical Machine Aesthetics

By mechtech I mean a machine aesthetic keyed to gears, clockwork, lawn mowers, revolvers, pistons, hard shiny metal, oiled hot steel, thrumming rhythms, the intricately choreographed blur of a spinning camshaft, and the utilitarian shafts and pipes running through the steel box of a factory. Of the three kinds of machine aesthetics studied in this book, this has certainly been the dominant machine aesthetic of the twentieth century and is still commonly experienced today. What many people think of-when they think of a "machine" grounds this aesthetic.


SOME HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

Machines have been part of human experience for centuries, of course, but have grown in dominance and psychological presence since the start of the Industrial Revolution in the early nineteenth century. Western civilization especially has been dominated by machines, in the view of Lewis Mumford ( Technics, 3-4), and he means mechtech machines. Mumford argues vigorously for the centrality of the machine in western thinking, for "no one can hope to achieve any kind of personal integrity in the modern world who is not at home with the machine" ( Art, 54).

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