The Machine

A look back at MoMA's 1968 landmark show on our changing relationship to technology


At the time of the MoMA‘s 1968 seminal exhibition, “The Machine,” modern technology was at a point of critical transition between the mechanical age and the rise of electronic development. The Machine stands as the first exhibition entirely focused on and in recognition of the mechanical influence on the Western World. Through the artists central to the Futurist, Dada and Surrealist movements the exhibition illustrated the attitude of their time toward technology.

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The metal book cover serves as a symbol of the mechanization of the modern world and makes it one of the more interesting book designs you’ll enjoy having on your library. The exhibition catalogue offers an in depth look at the 100+ included artists, chronologically ordered from the fifteenth to the twentieth century. The catalogue ventures from early mechanical depictions by Leonardo Da Vinci to the inventive diagram drawings of Suprematist Francis Picabia nearly four hundred years later. Each piece is accompanied by extensive black and white imagery and a collection of informative text and comments on technology by the artists themselves. From this the viewer learns of the Furtists’ aesthetic admiration of the machine and the Surrealist’s decisive opposition to machines as enemies of nature.

As the introduction poignantly states, “We take the machine’s usefulness for granted: yesterday’s new invention, no matter how amazing, quickly becomes the commonplace of today.” Some forty years later this noteworthy aside seems even more relevant today.

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From Eadweard Muybridge’s historical photographic studies of motion to the groundbreaking sculptures and projection installations by Robert Rauschenberg and Robert Whitman’s Experiments in Art and Technology (EAT), the catalog details the revolutionary group who reshaped the new technology of their time with art’s individualism and freedom.

Seen by many as the last great exhibition of its period, The Machine continues to inspire. Look to Amazon or any number of other auction sites to snap up a vintage copy for yourself.