The Impossible Machine
MACHINA SANS MACHINA:
The simplest form of infinity is simply timelessness, remaining
the same whether or not time passes. Yet immortality is not
simply timelessness; it is the ability to live independent of time.
When I use the word "perpetual" I am not thinking merely of
infinity, in the way an object continues if it is indestructible.
Instead, I am thinking of something that perpetuates its own
life, that seeks through some means a kind of immortality.
Yet because life as I know it is not one thing only but many
qualities joined, the perpetual machine
would achieve a life with limits: it does not have
consciousness, so it is not an immortal awareness even, but
merely a continuous capacity, as one might imagine any given
thing is prone to being. The capacity for humanity continues,
and the capacity for crops, as long as the cycle remains finite
within the context of time.
Likewise, creating a perpetual machine is paradoxically a
matter of creating something that is finite within the context of
theory, but infinite in the context of time.
Essentially the only thing stopping a machine is greed for the
infinite, a way of taking the finite tools for granted, by
theorizing as though the device were not a thing in itself. By
assuming that infinity is an infinite line that never returns, an
inventor expresses hunger to consume rather than create.
Like life, perpetual motion would entail a kind of consummate
complexity whose function depends on the many situational
contingencies of existence. A true perpetual motion machine,
with some possible analogies to systems of spiritual
awakening, is an act of humility towards human desert, a way
of honoring the available tools, and recognizing that new
By appreciating that the exact configuration is important, it
becomes clearer how fragile life can be, yet how full of
marvels it can become. It is my belief that even if perpetual
motion is foolish nonsense, within the life I know a kind of art
is possible that traduces conventional ideas of expression
and dimensional space.
Even if no machine is capable of moving beyond the laws as
we know them, art in recent history has repeatedly done so.
Art then becomes my metaphor for a life that rebels from death
and meaninglessness, attaining a kind of value analogous to a
machine that is over-unity.
Like perpetual motion, artwork is often seen as the product of
"fringe thinking", however I find no reason to believe that
fringe thinking is ultimately less valuable than the strictly
To me this does not mean that the machine does not work, but
rather that it does, by the mechanics of impossibility. That is,
impossibility is the negative space,
the recognition of which allows the creation of anything
possible, whether or not it had once been considered, or
even proven, impossible. In artwork, beauty can be a matter of
combining tools, individual symbols with the potential for
Likewise, in invention particular components act like symbols,
which within the aesthetic of practical yet transcendent theory
gain a functionality comparable to aesthetic beauty.
The impossible machine is really the machine of high
standards, the progressive system through which aesthetic or
design are improved, so that even a completely separate
concept benefits from the categorical neglect of dead ends
and bad ideas.
Yet it is also a pragmatic improvement in an economical
sense,an acceptance that the technology of symbols is
progressing as rapidly as consumer technology.
It may then be simpler and more economical to find uses for
the new symbols, rather than to attempt to understand the far
limits of technological accretion. Since the technology is
fundamentally a product of functional symbols,
understanding the symbols
may be a
short-cut towards categorical advances, even within areas
such as free-energy that have been considered abandoned.