It has been a long tradition among philosophers and writers to praise uselessness as a means to stress the importance of spiritual activities and creations without clear functional aims. Aristotle, for one, established early on that knowledge was valuable in itself, not for providing practical utility—a notion frequently forgotten today. To praise inutility, thus, has been a reaction to the materialistic values promoted by capitalist society, which has been criticized for its lack of moral and spiritual values.
Because machines are generally associated with the fulfillment of a practical duty, the functional independence of art is particularly highlighted when artists create or represent machines. We find ultimate examples of useless art machines in works by Jean Tinguely, for example, whose sole purpose is to destroy itself; or Wim Delvoye’s pursuit of technologically sophisticated devices for the production of excrement. They are two times useless: for being artworks and for producing more art.
As a reaction to our current times focused on utilitarianism and profit, Useless: Machines for Dreaming, Thinking and Seeing will present a selection of curious machines created by artists with the goal of stirring dreams, feelings, critical thinking, and ironies; for seeing what microscopes, telescopes and cartographies cannot show; for flying without taking-off; in short, for doing the impossible. Such are some of the uses of art.
Participating artists include Jairo Alfonso, Wim Delvoye, Juan Downey, Peter Fischli & David Weiss, Algis Griskevicius, Rebecca Horn, José Iraola, William Kentridge, Arnaldo Morales, Roxy Paine, Adriana Salazar, Shyu Ruey-Shiann, Jean Tinguely, Johanna Unzueta, Simón Vega, Stefana McClure, Sarah Sze. Useless: Machines for Dreaming, Thinking and Seeing has been organized by Gerardo Mosquera.
Useless: Machines for Dreaming, Thinking and Seeing is generously supported by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Foundation, and the Taipei Cultural Center in New York.