“Supplements to Themselves”

I stumbled into a small art studio recently, and though I appreciate art, I was admittedly interested in something else.   But, as it seems, it was art that I found and one artist in particular that grabbed my attention.  

Grayber_Cavity-Mechanism-12_webObjects are invented in order to satisfy particular needs, specifically, human needs.  With my sculpture I investigate the concept of need when the human is removed from this equation.  I do this by replacing the human with the object itself.  My sculptures are invented only to sustain themselves, functioning as self-resolving problems.  The result is an object that has been invented only to compensate for the complications created by its own existence. The piece alone represents the need and the resolution.

Many of my pieces are small, spring loaded, mechanical objects.  They are intricately designed and fabricated to accomplish one of the most simple, yet most essential tasks that an autonomous object can.  This task, this need, is that of holding itself up.  In most cases, my pieces accomplish this by actively attaching themselves to specific architectural features and individual objects.

-Dan Grayber from DanGrayber.com

Grayber’s work was, to say the least, an unexpected treat. The pictures may give you an idea, but ultimately they cannot do justice to what is truly a blend of philosophy, engineering and art.  I found myself mesmerized as I closely evaluated each piece, then on display at Johansson Projects in Oakland.  Some stirred in me a sense of intrigue, while others outright baffled me!

Grayber has gotten some attention.  The following quote was taken from an article done about him in Wired Magazine.

dan-grayberMost inventions that come into the world, Grayber says, can be understood as extensions or supplements of our bodies in one way or another. By designing objects that deliberately have no user, Grayber succeeds at inventing things that are “solely supplements to themselves.” Each work is a perfectly self-contained specimen–an idea that’s reinforced by their glass-jar presentation. But as Grayber is well aware, the idea of perfect, hermetically sealed functionality can only keep us so rapt. What’s really compelling is fragility–the possibility that things can go wrong. So while Grayber might have started with the simple aim of inventing things that held themselves up, lately he’s been more interested in building things that hold themselves up but just barely. These days, he says, “I really want the work to exist in a delicate equilibrium–just beyond the point of failure.

-Kyle VanHemert, Wired Magazine/Wired.com

Art, as we know, often stands prophetically against the popular culture.  Grayber’s art in particular potentially stands against the myriad of human institutions that exist, whether by design or by default, only to support themselves.  Eccelesiologically (which I’m not sure is a real word), we want to hold that the Church exists for many things other than itself.  However, one of my first thoughts in reflecting on Grayber’s work was not against the church, but against the structures that we’ve confused with the church.  It seems that we at times, create structures and/or programs within the life our communities that again, either by design or by default, end up existing only to exist; only to support themselves.

If anything, let this be food for thought; what structures in the life of our communities are guilty of this?


This one I happened to see in person. For most, I could figure out how the pressure was transferred mechanically to hold the piece up. This one intrigued me not only because I couldn’t figure it out, but also because it reminded me of something out of Star Wars.