Introduction to DVD / Lecture at Critical Mass Art Show March 2004
Written by Erik Newman

Skepticism about Presented Knowledge

I have been presented with various information about the world. The Earth is round. Is the Earth round? How do I know? The Sun revolves around the Earth. Does the Sun go around the Earth? How do I know? I haven’t figured it out for myself, have I? I can follow this line of questioning anywhere. Certain things in this world are pretty much accepted by people regardless of whether they have been personally observed. This end of the scale could be called “Agreed Presented Knowledge”.

On the other hand might be “Conflicted Presented Knowledge”. I say this technology is good. You say this technology is bad. Differing opinions about things. Genetic engineering is a great example of Conflicted Presented Knowledge. In other words, nobody actually knows shit about it.

A long time ago, I set about trying proving everything myself. I made a somewhat loose decision not to use any technology that I didn’t understand. This became a big tangle, trying to obtain another level of certainty about the world. I’ve tried to learn or discover (pretend to discover) basic principles behind things. Honestly I haven’t gotten very far. I wanted to repeat every scientific experiment just to make sure “they” got it right. I can’t remember exactly why I wanted to do this, it probably boils down to a fundamental lack of trust, a feeling that this world is built upon a stack of lies. Lies might be too strong a word, perhaps the presentation of a facade of progress is more what I am trying to explore.

The human world, and by that I mean Chicago, has been created by technological choices that have led us to where we are now. I’m fascinated by the other choices, the paths that we didn’t go down, and what had the people in the past make the choices they did. In the 1920’s, there were tens of thousands of solar water heaters being used in the United States. What happened? I’m tending to think that choices were made not from calm evaluation of various options, carefully considering the pros and cons of various technologies, ultimately leading to a consensus of cooperation. In fact I’m pretty sure it was quite the opposite; a rabid, desperate competitive scrambling, one that exposes the very real animal instinct to protect your loved ones and your stuff in a brutal, vicious world.

Propeller Tester

This work is built from a bicycle that my friend Nathan gave to me. He was hit from behind by a car under the railroad bridge at Leavitt and Milwaukee and left for dead. He is fully (as far as I know) recovered, except in cold weather he can feel the fracture line thru his skull. So the core of this work has a story of brutality. A curse of technology and a perfect example of negligent social responsibility and bad driving.

Truthfully, I built this because I had a couple cool propellers. What to do with them? Conversion of power from Earth to Air. Two different propellers: You could do some objective testing to see how each performed. They are different. They have different performance characteristics. With government funding we could learn much more.

I make an effort to preserve the bicycle, that is, to only make temporary modifications so that if in the future there is a bicycle shortage, it can be converted back into a ridable bicycle. It does have a bent fork.

This work is dedicated to my friend Nathan and the Memory of Useable Materials, where I could always find something I needed and pick up a little Spanish at the same time. Amen.