General Eccentric

“Where progress is our most important problem”

solarized image of electronic breadboard

I graduated with an MFA at York University in 1980, then got married and took on a hobby. I learned the basics of electronics and found that I had a knack for invention. In 1984, however, I was sidetracked by the Macintosh computer and became a graphic and interaction designer. Twenty-five years later, lured by the promise of the artist-friendly “Arduino”, I unpacked my electronics lab.

My self-directed projects can be described as ‘toys’ that relate obliquely to my experience as a design educator at NSCAD. I'm interested in technology and how it relates to our human need to shape our environments and experiences. On a deeper level, I'm intrigued by the fragility of the design process; in particular how success is bred through a cultivation of failure. My own work uses the Situationist methodology of “Détournement”, where cultural artifacts are re-purposed as a critique of modern culture.

Where have I heard that slogan before?

In the 1960's, General Electric’s slogan was “Progress is our most important product”. I remember it from watching “G.E’s College Bowl”, a quiz show on US television. In 1969, however, comedian Arte Johnson mangled the phrase as “Progress is our most important problem” on Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In.

The Work

Our culture’s concept of innovation and creativity stems from Archimedes’ “Eureka!” moment. This perception colours our view of the artificial world; our structures, our products, our social and education systems are imbued with this myth of the “Master Designer”. It’s a great story, this Archimedes, but in reality, our world is more a product of “oops!” than “eureka!”.

My work tends to situate itself at the intersection between technical virtuosity and failure. It’s a practical investigation of the points in the creative process where rationality breaks down and new thought emerges, where the concept and original utility of the objects is annulled by a “fatal flaw” in concept, understanding, or execution.

Go to The Technology of Good Intentions page to see more.

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