It’s probably the stark fact that it’s hard to sell that keeps tech-art alive in today’s culturally-repressive conditions. If these art-machines could be mass-produced, they’d be immediately productized and commoditized; they’d become special FX, gaming, and apps. But they’re not simple machines or products: they don’t have users, they have audiences; they are relationships, they are processes. They’re akin to performance art, interventions or even street-puppets and protest songs.
It’s not that this can be culturally engineered, exactly — it’s not like a Madison Avenue blitzkrieg of Interstate billboards would have ever helped Alexander Calder. Still, it feels like we’re at the brink of some realization that could turn wry, subversive, Burning Man tech-gadgetry and net.art global-alternativism into some actual, pragmatic means for enhancing our civilization. There’s a lot of breathing room in tech-art, if you don’t inhale the laser-cutter fumes. It might become an art with temporary components yet a lasting consequence.
I don’t believe that handicraft is a fruitful approach for tech-art. The “Tribute to Nelly Ben Hayoun” does have some elements that I created with my hands. I hand-twisted the wires that support the glass weights. I used a Opinel craft knife to cut the paper images. But since I knew that some components were arbitrary and would need replacement, I decided to construct the whole mobile around that basic understanding.