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Up the Luddites!

July 13, 2008

Friday was the debut of “Meet the Made” here in Pittsburgh, the latest in the Mattress Factory’s “Gestures” series and a project of the Robot 250 program. Curated by Ian Ingram and Carl DiSalvo, “Meet the Made” addresses “the relationship between robotics and all aspects of human culture.” Stuart Anderson and I were invited to work with this idea for the exhibit, and combined forces to create a work about the Luddite uprisings in England during the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. It seemed appropriate to address a popular uprising against the mechanized workplace in the context of a show which celebrates the mechanized. Not that we wanted to cause a stink, you know, but the setting was ripe. You can read more about the piece here.

I also installed a vinyl graphic on the outside of the gallery space – an illustration of an old sledgehammer with the caption “down with all kings but King Ludd” (a line from a Lord Byron poem depicting the Luddite mindset, written to a friend in 1816). King Ludd, or Ned Ludd, was the mythical head of the Luddite rebellions, and many of the threats and public notices issued by various Luddite groups were either signed “Ludd” or referred to Ludd specifically as an arbiter of justice.

Recommended reading on the Luddites: Rebels Against the Future by Kirkpatrick Sale.


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