‘The Constantly Moving Happiness Machine’ & ‘Play for Free’ (Installation pair, 2017, ArtOmi)

This was a pair of rough and ready pieces I worked on whilst on residency. They helped me formulate the ideas which went on to inform my subsequent larger work The Constantly Moving Happiness Machine.

Both pieces are games, which the artist seduces the participant into playing. The interactor gratifies their desire in participating, but at the same time unknowingly enacts something more sinister. The participant is part of a wider machine, allowing their subconscious to be colonized and utilized. These pieces explore our role — particularly the grey area of consent — as consumers.

The Constantly Moving Happiness Machine
(2017) Ayn Rand Novels, wood, fishing wire, gears and bike chain.

The participant turns the crank and is charmed by the resulting motion of pleasing objects. On closer inspection these appealing jiggling entities are constructed from Ayn Rand texts, which I find to be somewhat of a manifesto for sociopathy.

I’m fascinated by the tacit consent we give to our subconscious being manipulated by advertising and PR, shaping us into compliant consumers. In essence, the artist is tricking the participant to take part in a consensual colonization of their subconscious. There is something creepily Randian about the self-motivation of the crank, whilst there are also resonances with Marxist ideas about productivity and surplus labour.

Play For Free
(2017) Ayn Rand Novels, mixed leaves, card, glue, wood, magnets, steel

A game in which participants are invited to knock over pins with wrecking balls. On closer inspection, the pins are a fragile symbiosis between man and nature, manifested by carefully balanced leaves delicately coaxed into the man-made shape of a cube; whilst the wrecking bricks are the texts of Ayn Rand, whose tenets underpin market fundamentalism. The gratification we receive overrides more careful consideration of consequences that may not be obvious; similar to our behaviour as consumers. Sometimes it’s not all fun and games.

With huge thanks to Adam Curtis