Things We Like: Charles & Ray Eames’ “Solar Do-Nothing Machine”


Modern furnishings, sure. Landmark exhibits, yep. Groundbreaking films, uh-huh. But what you might not be familiar with is the Eames’ Solar Do-Nothing Machine, a sculpture for Alcoa, the Aluminum Company of America, created in 1957.

A kinetic sculpture that lures you in with wild colors and patterns that shimmy, shake, sparkle and spin, the Solar Do-Nothing Machine takes a potentially boring subject (solar energy) and dazzles with accessible, whimsical, high-modern style.

But the film—culled from footage unearthed in 1995 by Eames Demetrios—is where the magic really happens. Close-ups and panning shots bring you right into the piece backed by a jazzy soundtrack that pairs perfectly with classic aesthetics and bouncing, spinning parts. And just like a good sugar rush, the party ultimately comes crashing to a halt—in this case when a cloud passes overhead. Science. Bummer.

For me it’s all nearly too much, too perfect. The glimmering geometry, the pop colors, the choreography of moving shapes, and, of course, the soundtrack all make this thing utterly hypnotic. Pity the fool who puts the film on repeat. Sure, that’d probably be me. If that happens and you see me sitting there totally zoned out, just know I’m in a high-keyed happy place. And pick my jaw up off the table on your way out.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s