Book Two Cover and process image
Project Information: THE BOY MECHANIC PROJECT
Between 1913 and 1925, "Popular Mechanics" magazine published a series of four books called, "The Boy Mechanic: 1000 Things for Boys to Do". The books contain thousands of do-it-yourself projects submitted by Popular Mechanics readers all over the nation, forming a complex and surprising picture of Americans during this period. The projects range from simple pragmatic items, like a traveler's bookcase, to wild flights of fancy, like a homemade roller coaster. They demonstrate an optimistic faith in simple materials, scrappy ingenuity, and big dreams.
In the Boy Mechanic Project, I build objects from these books as a means of exploring connections between object making, self-making, and the American ideal of the self-made man. The promise of "The Boy Mechanic" is that skills, habits and actions allow us to consciously construct ourselves according to our values. I grapple with the problems and possibilities contained within the stereotype of the Boy Mechanic, as I confront the technical problems in the designs themselves, like a folding boat that won't fold or float, or rolling sawhorses that won't roll. I attempt to solve these absurd problems in a spirit of critically engaged optimism.
Through this queer process of exploring my desire to embody the unattainable, idealized vision the Boy Mechanic represents, I re-contextualize the idea of a self-reliant American boy. I explore the humor and contradictions of an absurd form of constructed masculinity, with its disquieting and paradoxical implications of settler-colonialism, capitalism, optimism, and liberation.
All images and text copyright 2006-2023 Gina Siepel. All rights reserved.