Animism is alive and well in the industrial world of Boris Artzybasheff.
After the Russian Revolution, Artzybasheff (1899-1965) arrived in America with no parents and 14 cents in his pocket. He began to work as an illustrator using an Art Deco style, then became heavily influenced by the representational surrealist movement.
His illustrations graced countless Time and Life magazines, loads of ads, and around 50 books, including Charles Finney’s The Circus of Dr. Lao and Dhan Gopal Mukerji’s Gay-Neck, which won him the Newbery.
One of his most famous books was his own, As I See. This book contains a section entitled “Machinalia.”
In its introduction, Artzybasheff says, “I am thrilled by machinery’s force, precision and willingness to work at any task, no matter how arduous or monotonous it may be. I would rather watch a thousand ton dredge dig a canal than see it done by a thousand spent slaves lashed into submission. I like machines.”
He says that, but while some of these do look like a happy little Disney world o’ machines, others look far more ominous to me. However, I’ll give the artist the benefit of the doubt for knowing his own subconscious along with his conscious approval of human liberation from drudgery. Perhaps the machines’ expressions do not signify plotting the eventual overthrow of their soft, fleshy masters, as I suspect, but simply intense concentration on their work tasks.
See what you think.
Navy’s Mark III Calculator
Executive of the Future
(Thanks to my original source for many of these illos: Stephen Worth, ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive)