Inventing tools and machines is the quintessential human activity. If we’re being honest, we humans aren’t particularly well adapted to survive on our own. It is only by creating tools to solve problems and adapt to environmental pressures that we, as a species, have survived to become as successful and numerous as we are. Each tool, then, has two pieces of information encoded within its design: the problem that tool was designed to solve, and the ideal world that will be created by solving the aforementioned problem.
At one point in time, tools might have been created to solve indisputable, universal problems: finding food while not becoming someone else’s food. As civilizations became more complex, however, so too did the problems, until the problems were not indisputable at all, but rather a matter of perspective. As a result, the tools and machines a civilization creates are reflections of that civilization’s own unique fears and desires— the problems it perceives in the world, and the ideal world it collectively strives to accomplish. Tools reflect a civilization’s collective worldview.
In his work, Justin Playl uses tools and machines as a lens by which to critique our civilization. He examines the hidden beliefs— our civilization’s problems and ideals— embedded within our technology by creating original machines that solve these same problems in new, absurd ways. At other times, he creates new machines predicated on new problems and hopes for the world. In this way, Playl subverts technology’s ability to encode a civilization’s beliefs by suggesting a new beliefs, creating machines that try to change civilization itself.