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Francis Picabia. Machine with No Name. 1915

(French, 1879-1953) Audio courtesy of Acoustiguide

CURATOR, ANNE UMLAND: Francis Picabia's unconventional portrait of a Machine with No Name is a wonderful example of his so-called machine style. It announces the sort of pervasive mechanomorphic imagery that pervades Dada art.

NARRATOR: Curator, Anne Umland:

ANNE UMLAND: It's such a strange structure! There are fluted elements of pistons, I suppose, on either side, but that at the same time evoke classical columns. You see the small wheel at the center, and these diagonal struts that support the larger central structure, all poised in a way that suggests impending movement. But then if you try to go further and think how would they actually work together, you realize that that there is no coherent mechanism. It is a completely dysfunctional machine.

NARRATOR: When Picabia arrived in New York from France in 1913, he was impressed by American technology.

FRANCIS PICABIA [actor]: Almost immediately upon coming to America it flashed on me that the genius of the modern world is in machinery and that through machinery, art ought to find a most vivid expression.

NARRATOR: However, his enthusiasm soon gave way to ambivalence.

ANNE UMLAND: I think throughout Dada, and in Picabia in particular, there is a pronounced skepticism of the machine. It's not a glorification of it. It's a questioning of it, and I think this skepticism can best be thought of within, of course, the context of WWI and the particular devastation wrought by machines.

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