Utah-machine (behorend bij de Utah-Tarim connectie)

  • 1980
  • Gerrit van Bakel
  • iron, rubber, kerosine, copper
  • 81 x 81 x 68,7 cm
  • Location not on view.
  • Acquired in 1981
  • Inventory number 935

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The 'Utah-machine' by the Dutch artist Gerrit van Bakel consists of a large iron wheel that is kept in balance by two small wheels with the help of a rod. The large wheel contains an oil tank. When the temperature rises of falls, the volume of the oil changes and the expansion or reduction of the oil is converted into a movement by means of a membrane and a mechanism, so that the wheel turns. The huge differences in temperature between day and night in the Utah Desert can make the wheel move at a maximum speed of 18 millimetres a day.

Van Bakel made the Utah- machine in response to the news that the world land speed record (of 1200 km per hour) was established by the three-wheeler rocket Blue Flame on the salt flats of Utah. He would have liked to set up his machine for the world slowness record, next to the Blue Flame, the symbol of the world speed record. The 'Utah-machine' is part of the Utah-Tarim connection. This project entails that the Tarim machine invented by Van Bakel has to cross the Tarim basin, an area to the north of Tibet which is about 1100 km long, As this machine can only reach a maximum speed of 18 mm per day, completing the Utah-Tarim connection would take more than 30 million years.

Gerrit Van Bakel makes machines which work, and for that reason his work is classified as Kinetic Art. However, his machines, like those of the French artist Tinguely, do not have any practical purpose. The Utah-machine can move, but cannot be used as a means of transport for anything other than itself. Furthermore, its slow rate of movement is almost a parody of the phenomenon of movement or progress. Van Bakel’s machines serve to express a particular idea, they are fuel for thought and provide a different view on generally accepted matters. They are examples of technology, but they result in poetry. Van Bakel is fascinated by technical achievements such as the development of speed louder than sound, as well as by the madness of this idea. Man’s mania to conquer the world can be seen in very relative terms through Van Bakel’s machines.

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