Backtalk - 01/24/2008

Jan. 24, 2008
Here’s an update on an item we ran a few years ago.

Art of motion control

The Art of Motion Control Web site ( was created by artist Bruce Shapiro in October 1995. He believes motion control is a medium for artistic expression. The high cost of equipment hinders artists from exploring this technology. Shapiro overcame this obstacle by building his own equipment from scrapped industrial components. Shapiro says, “‘Art machines” is the term I use for creations in which motion control is actively used in the public performance of the work. In some cases, the machine can be used both in the studio to create static output, or can be displayed while active.”

The site covers his machines and the artwork created with them, such as these Ribbon Dancers on display at the Science Center of Iowa in Des Moines. Shapiro was commissioned to create two ribbon dancers with baton lengths of 8 to 10 ft to hang from the ceiling.

Chuckle, chuckle

A liberal-arts student, sick of working at fast-food places for what seemed like an eternity, decided to get a job working as a laborer at a construction site. The overconfident student soon began to brag to the other workers about all sorts of things. One day he decided to brag that he could outdo anyone in a feat of strength. He made a special case of making fun of the wiry engineer on the site. After several minutes, the engineer had had enough.

“Why don’t you put your money where your mouth is,” said the engineer. “I will bet a week’s wages that I can haul something in a wheelbarrow over to that outbuilding that you won’t be able to wheel back.”“You’re on, little guy!” the braggart replied. “Let’s see what you got.”

The engineer reached out and grabbed the wheelbarrow by the handles. Then, nodding to the young man, he said, “All right: Get in.”


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