“Machine(s) of Loving Grace”: stories of a Cybernetic Ecology

At the Gratosoglio district in Milan, in the spaces of the former Ringhiera theatre, an exhibition opened during Milano Arch Week explores the local and global implications of new technologies on the natural environment.

In 1967 the American author Richard Brautigan published the poem All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace in a collection that has the same title. Following the wave of enthusiastic confidence in the technological development of those years, Brautigan describes a technological utopia, where machines improve and protect man in a new relationship with the natural landscape. There is no longer any distinction between nature and technology: both elements live in a mutual harmony that allows man to be finally free.

During Milano Arch Week 2019, in a room of the municipal building of the former Ringhiera Theatre, curators Francesca Luci, Margherita Marri, Andrea Mologni (CAPTCHA) and Luigi Savio (Abnormal) presented “Machine(s) of Loving Grace”: an enormous device that exposes, through the regular and hypnotic motion of its rollers, the words of Brautigan translated into Java language, printed on a long white textile that moved slowly. The text, which is transformed into a machine code, takes on an incomprehensible and fragmentary guise, dramatizing analogically the condition of absolute impenetrability of the technological infrastructure supporting today’s system of knowledge.

“Machine(s) of Loving Grace”, former Ringhiera theatre, Milan, 2019. Photo Piercarlo Quecchia

This visionary scenario of the past becomes an inspiring point of view from which to look at the completely anthropized contemporary world. Data centers, fulfilment centers and automated greenhouses, anonymous boxes inhabited by machines alone and generated by computational geographies now redraw huge portions of land, deserving the definition of landscapes.

In these new landscapes automation becomes ontologically comparable to nature – produced by man and autonomous – in a vision that recalls the cybernetic ecology of Brautigan.

A precious collection of material from various contributors – architects and artists who work on the subject – is exhibited around the large machine.  Part of this material is presented in paper format which is possible to consult and take home. The curators have asked specific questions to the various contributors reporting their answers in writing . A different section, in video format, is projected on the machine used as a display. 

When the curators asked what is the relationship between nature and computational geography in the Anthropocene era, one of the contributors – German photographer Christoph Morlinghaus – answered: “The problem with the Anthropocene is, of course, the alteration of Earth’s climate, geography and biodiversity and we will probably never see harmony between mammals and computers or pines and electronics outside of virtual reality. Unless we change our economic order where money buys natural resources.”

The exhibition gives the visitor the opportunity to face these themes and becomes a great container of research from which to draw on.

“Machine(s) of Loving Grace”
Francesca Luci, Margherita Marri, Andrea Mologni (CAPTCHA), Luigi Savio (Abnormal)
Nina Bassoli, Azzurra Muzzonigro, Associazione Atir
Support (engineering and coding):
Niil Petruccioli
(ab)normal; Neerja Bathia e Victor munoz corso the territorial city presso uta, cappa; Michele Borzoni; Captcha; Paul Cournet e Negar Sanaan Bensi corso datapolis presso tu Delft; Camilla Franchini; Kateřina Frejlachová, Miroslav Pazdera, Tadeáš Ríha, Martin Spičák; Jesse lecavalier; Clare lyster; Tommaso Maserati; Christoph Morlinghaus; Noumena; Matthew Stewart; Liam Young; Laida Aguirre
Teatro Ringhiera, Via Boifava 17, Milan
Opening dates:
Monday/Thursday 5p.m/8 p.m. Saturday/Sunday 12 a.m/8 p.m. Open till the 2nd of June

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