Automata • Dug North


According to Dug North, automata basically means "self-moving". That is interestesting because, using that definition, technically David's sculptures are automata. However, there seems to be a difference in contemporary sculpture between automata and kinetic sculpture. I found myself wondering if there is a distiction, and if so, where is the line drawn. Take a minute and watch this video which shows not only the incredible automata created by Dug North, but also his home and workshop in a renovated industrial space in Lowell, MA.  

To me, automata has always brought to mind the hand-powered mechanical pieces, generally of definable subject matter, i.e. people, animals, things depicted in a scene. North's beautifully constructed work reflects that understanding. Doing a little research I found some information in the book, Directions in Kinetic Sculpture by Peter Selz (Univerity of California, Berkley, University Art Museum). He states that the action in automata is always repeated but kinetic sculpture incorporates motion that is not predetermined but, instead is random. Given that further elaboration, some of David's sculptures would fall on the automata side of the line and others on the kinetic sculpture side. Interesting. But as in all things art do the terms really matter? Is it art, or craft, or sculpture? What matters is, do you like it?

Imagine having a walk-in safe in your home? What fun!