Autodesk sits at the center of the computer aided design and manufacturing revolution -- "The Future of Making Things." During my 2015 residency in their Pier 9, San Francisco workshops I distributed a questionnaire asking people whether they decided how things turned out or whether their machines decided. The answers tended to the middle -- sometimes I decide, sometimes the machine does. This disappointing result revealed nothing about how anyone thought.
Through a series of accidents, I wound up making a mechanized stool that was only stable leaning all the way right or left. The stool with ratchets and scales became a questionnaire that had no midpoint answer. It is a machine that makes you decide before you realize you have decided. It doesn't care whether you lean left or right but the slightest imbalance and there you are. And I still don't know what anyone is thinking about all of this.
The title was taken from a passage by Saul Bellow in "The Adventures of Augie March" (1953) where he elegantly puts this question about whether you or the machine decides:
“…probably she was waiting to see what I would do. My real desire was to get out. But the car had
already gone a way over the cobbles and having just got it under way I couldn’t check it. That’s so often
what it is with machinery: be somewhat in doubt and it carries the decision.”
Here is an interview about how this piece came to be: