The primacy of meaning: consumption, divinity and the machine

Philip Alan Aitken MFA, P–G Dip. Art, BDes | July 2018 | Queensland College of Art; Arts, Education & Law; Griffith University

“This research explores the notion that from the time of the Machine Age, humanity has formed a reliance on the machine and on machine–produced consumable items. Writing in 1970, Ivan Illich stated that “The myth of unending consumption has taken the place of a belief in life everlasting”. In this research I explore how this idea is still relevant in contemporary society. The machine continues to have paramount importance, not only in preserving, sustaining, and advancing humanity but also in the deepening process of how we construct meaning and spirituality in a mass–production and mass–consumption society. The studio outcomes are influenced by Industrial Revolution and Machine Age mechanisms but have no productive outcomes. Formally, they are a suite of sculptures that acknowledge an existential dilemma and suggest that perhaps the machines producing our items of consumption have taken on a divine importance within adapting cultural systems and continued technological advancement. Some of the key thinkers who have influenced this work include Jean Baudrillard, Ernest Becker, Emile Durkheim, Sigmund Freud, Clifford Geertz, Yuval Noah Harari, Martin Heidegger, Carl Jung, Immanuel Kant, Soren Kierkegaard, Abraham Maslow, Friedrich Nietzsche, Otto Rank, Arthur Schopenhauer and Thorstein Veblen. Works from influential artists include Self Erasing Drawing by Mona Hatoum, Daughter Born Without Mother by Francis Picabia, and Jean Tinguely’s Homage to New York. In response to these ideas, this research has been based around the following question: Have the processes of mechanisation and industrialisation allowed the individual to fashion new spiritual, religious and cultural ideologies centred on the ego of consumption?” See here for full paper

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