December 5, 2012


This one was inspired by the title of Adam Curtis's 2011 documentary series All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace. In this three part series Curtis argues that we adopted machine like thinking, and have come to believe that computers/technology could stabilize our societies and liberate humanity. In Curtis's view, these efforts have failed, and has left humanity less free and has given us a warped view of reality.

Curtis borrowed the title from a poem, and a book of the same name published in 1967, by American writer Richard Brautigan. Brautigan, living and working in California in the 1960's (including a stint as poet-in-residence at the California Institute of Technology), was possibly influenced by the "Californian Ideology", the ideology that promoted the computer-utopian ideas that Curtis criticizes in his documentary. In his poem, Brautigan envisions a future world where technology merges with nature, humanity is freed from its labor and mankind, nature and technology join together in some sort of harmonious balance.

I didn't try to consciously convey Curtis's or Brautigan's ideas through this piece. It just started as an image that popped in my head when I read the title, All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace, and then evolved as I worked up the initial sketch and started painting. That being said, I guess my thoughts concerning this piece conform more to Brautigan's vision, as I see the orbs in this piece as mechanical shepherds, protecting and watching over our traveler along his journey. Even though he is tired and worn, they push him on. He remains motivated, his gaze is firmly fixed on his goal and his journey is almost over.

This mirrors my own feelings as I finish up the last few pieces in this series.

If you haven't checked out any of Adam Curtis's work before I highly recommend it. He has some great documentaries. The Century of Self (2002),  and The Power of Nightmares (2004) are a couple of my favorites of his. I agree that sometimes the connections made can be stretched pretty far, but his documentaries are generally interesting, entertaining and well put together. As for Brautigan, he passed away in 1984. I had never heard of him before I watched Curtis's documentary. I haven't read any of his other work, and I don't even really care for the poem...... but what a great title!

More details at my Flickr.

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