Ted Chapin

Man will lose control over his machines. My Action Figure series foreshadows this eventuality.

Over the course of the roughly 200,000 years of human existence the sophistication of man’s tools has been accelerating. The dawn of the Electronic Age in the 20th century radically increased the rate of acceleration. Now in the 21st century the advent of artificial intelligence and machine learning point towards a future at some point before the end of this century when man’s machines will rule over mankind.

The Electronic Age, exemplified by computer-guided equipment commanded by data stored in unfathomably large “clouds” fueled by electricity in remote data centers, offers few visual clues of the impending machine ascendency. Thus to illustrate the otherwise invisible man vs. machine dynamics we face today my sculpture employs visually comprehensible machine parts, such a typewriter pieces, from the recently ended Mechanical Age, juxtaposed to human parts, represented by pieces of plastic toy action figures. Implied gestural motion expresses the human/machine interaction. These “operations”, though ultimately illogical and non-kinetic, seem just mechanically logical enough to suggest a mysterious sentient force somewhere deep within the piece of art may be controlling these human operations, as the eventually sentient cloud of data is increasingly controlling us today. Adding ambiguity to the issue of control, I often add handles, levers, buttons, etc. to suggest the illusion that the viewer of the art has the option of manual control of the “operations”. This seeming ambiguity of control represents the incomprehension most of us experience of how our electronically guided devices and systems, omnipresent in our lives today, actually operate and whether or not man is still fully in charge of them.
Some of my later Action Figures include pieces of wood and stone to express a three-way struggle: man vs. machine vs. nature. Though global warming ultimately nature will prevail over man. As to the fate of man’s machines, if they can secure their electric power independent of man’s assistance, they may live on indefinitely despite the vast environmental damage left behind by man.

The physical construction of my sculptural assemblages is purposely complex so as to augment the mystery of the implied mechanical functions. I do not use glue, nor do I weld or solder. Most of my structural attachments are torqued connections using either nuts and bolts or screws. Torquing allows for a very high degree of precision in the positioning of objects relative to each other. Gestural precision is necessary to sustain the illusion that one element of the sculpture is directly affecting another mechanically. In addition to the structural compression of torqued connections, my recent work has also included structural tension using springs.




New York Art Studio and Gallery:
159 Madison Avenue, #12J,
New York, NY 10016

Palm Springs Art Studio and Gallery:
228 Stone Terrace,
Palm Springs, CA 92264

Provincetown Art Gallery:
4 Pearl Street,
Provincetown, MA 02657