black clamshell box containing clip art sheet with various images printed in black (drum, honeycomb, animals, figure exercising) at the bottom of a glass-covered box containing 18 loose objects: small cardboard box, two pieces of broken mirror, two metal hooks, key, brass ring, wooden number "4", four beads, three silver brads, three blue metal nails; cardboard instruction sheet in three languages included

%C2%A9 George Brecht %2F Artists Rights Society %28ARS%29%2C New York

The Universal Machine, 1965

Not on Viewexpand_more

Named after the "universal Turing machine (UTM)," an early theoretical computing device invented by British mathematician Alan Turing (1912–1954), Brecht's Fluxus-infused Universal Machine playfully upends the logic-based systems of its predecessor by introducing the element of chance as the principal determinant of meaning.

Brecht's "machine" consists of a black linen box containing a pane of glass, under which is a sheet of paper printed with collaged clip-art. Ten small objects of various materials rest upon the collage. Designed to be shaken so that the various objects randomly obscure portions of the printed images, the machine's "output" is interpreted according to a set of rules included along with the multiple.

In an early interview, Brecht described the device's range of functions: "It's a Universal Machine for doing everything. For writing a novel, making a poem, composing a piece of music, for finding lost objects. You can use it as a watch, as a calendar. It can invent new mathematics, a new form of thought. Map out an itinerary for a trip."

Details
Title
The Universal Machine
Role
Artist
Accession Number
2009.54.1a-x
Provenance
Acquired in 1969 by the MIA Research and Reference Library through the John Russell Van Derlip Library Fund.
Catalogue Raisonne
Ruhé M28
Curator Approved

This record is from historic documentation and may not have been reviewed by a curator, so may be inaccurate or incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. If you notice a mistake or have additional information about this object, please email collectionsdata@artsmia.org.

Does something look wrong with this image? Let us know

black clamshell box containing clip art sheet with various images printed in black (drum, honeycomb, animals, figure exercising) at the bottom of a glass-covered box containing 18 loose objects: small cardboard box, two pieces of broken mirror, two metal hooks, key, brass ring, wooden number "4", four beads, three silver brads, three blue metal nails; cardboard instruction sheet in three languages included

© George Brecht / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Because of © restrictions, we can only show you a small image of this artwork.