Intimate With Machines

Posted on Thursday, June 30th, 2016 at 11:12 am

Words from Chip

Between 1981 and 1986 I worked as an apprentice Fitter and Machinist at Cockatoo Island shipyard in Sydney Harbour. I had just turned 16 and found myself immersed in metalwork and mechanics in a huge way. I was guided by older tradesman, for the first year in an apprentice school separate from the workplace. Cockatoo Island was an institution, it is now an Industrial Heritage site used for public events and tourism. It’s an industrial garden in a harbour. I visit often. Since then I have honed my craft and diversified. I now work as Head of the Engineering Fabrication Department at Creature Technology Company in Melbourne, making large scale, and world leading animatronics.

I have worked on some unbelievable machines over the years in some incredible places. I have built complex, robust and beautiful mechanical devices. I have been burnt, bruised and bled, and shed tears through exhaustion and frustration. It’s been a blast and continues to be. My attraction to the aesthetic of mechanical engineering is understandable.  I feel connected to metal objects, love the feel of steel, and hear the soundscape of an engineering workshop as inspiration for my own ambient and industrial music writing.

The music video collection that make up the hexaphonic video and sound design installation Intimate With Machines, was made in 2014 as a component of The Perpetual Light Machine, an installation by Autonomous Black (myself with Paul Irving) at Incinerator Gallery, Melbourne. On that occasion, six screens were mounted in small angular spaces at head height, lined with mirror to create a video based kaleidoscopic experience viewed through circular portals. The spaces were arranged in a circle for a truly immersive audio experience.

The film above is from The Perpetual Light Machine installation. Below I have a brief description of the individual films. The film at the end of the post is one of the six and so it’s soundtrack represents one sixth of the audio layering in a live viewing of Intimate With Machines.

Intimate With Machines 1: Archival film from the Prelinger Archive featuring images of fitter and machinists. Manipulated audio samples from The Prelinger Archive film The Machinist and field recordings of a lathe and other engineering tools. Background engineering drawings collected from various sources. Thousands of people no longer work in environments such a these.

Intimate With Machines 2: Archival film from the Prelinger Archive featuring images of boilermakers and welders. Manipulated audio samples from The Prelinger Archive film Welding and field recordings of oxy acetylene cutting, mig welding and other engineering tools. Yellow orange spray effect filmed from oxy acetylene cutting by my colleague Alex. Background engineering drawings collected from various sources. The trades that work with metals as liquid shift shapes to create forms that change our lives.

Intimate With Machines 3 and 6: Filmed in the heavy machine shop at Cockatoo Island on a visit during the Sydney Biennale in 2014. Synthesiser, rhythm programming and field recordings from an engineering workshop. Insectlike mechanical forms created through mirroring, traveling a sensuous merging path, .

Intimate With Machines 4: Paul Irving projected 16mm film onto the wall and curtains of my studio, while manipulating the projector and film. I filmed the projections, digitally layered them and mixed the various projector sounds into a mechanical soundscape. Images of machines entering humans, and machines containing humans.

Intimate With Machines 5: Excerpts from Ralph Steiners 1930 classic of engineering cinematography Mechanical Principals, over a background of abstracted images captured at the Sydney Biennale in 2014, then overlain with engineering terms as crawling text. Engineering workshop field recordings, spoken word and synthesiser. A warm layer, a cold layer, and the beautiful rhythmic movement of cranks, pivots, gears and pumps.

Intimate With Machines 6:

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