Machine

But Jamaican society is not machine-like. Machines have been forced on it by the small section of society that is at ease with the metaphor of machinery. The only machine for which a real passion exists throughout the levels of society, is the car and failing that, the motor-bike or the bicycle. The Jamaican attitude to litter has thus created landscape which has become a museum of technological innovation, introduced, broken and discarded and rusting, reclaimed y the wild and unstoppable growth of Godís geometrical exercises.

 

Take Serge Island Dairies, most of its terrain is an archeological site of machinery which is rusting away. It is an encyclopedia of progress. Many machines have done elegant service. Others have proved useless. There is a beautiful little miniature tractor from the 1930ís, tiny, now serving as an uncertain monument. It is beautiful on the one hand. But its rust smacks of opportunistic display. The fact that it has not been preserved, painted etc. means that its function as a monument is merely contingent, a happy chance.

 

This is emblematic, but we shall come to that later.

 

On the other hand, there is the saw-mill. A beautiful relic of teleological efficiency. Two revolving axes driven by a single loud motor, have been arranged along the longitudinal roofline of the basilical factory barely given form by the large flapping tattered skin of corrugated iron. Beteen them they drive a whole host of wood-working machines, imported from the States and old. The whole thing works but it is hardly used. Only to make wooden palets for the milkcartons.

 

Just outside of the compound, a ten minute drive up the river, there is an old hydraulic power station, not so old, ten years perhaps. The dam, much older is still standing, although the concrete is cracked. Land erosion has caused the dam to hold up not water but mud, a huge volume of mud and sand along the surface of which crawls a shallow river, over barren sand and large dead pebbles. A huge pipe leads from the top of the dam down to the vestiges of a turbine. The money had been invested and the power station has never worked. It now has become part of an ominous landscape.

 

Countless cars mark the road as monuments, a memory of madness, folded by the violence of their crazy reckless speed, or whole and exhausted after years of service.

 

Jamaica sometimes, to a foreigner, appears like a country drunk with forgetfulness reluctantly awakening to bitter memories.

BACK TO THE MACHINE AESTHETIC

Waiting is a phenomenon akin to acceptance of the dislocation of the machine that this society has never become. Jamaican society is not machine-like, much of it is anti-machine. But then, nor is any society truly machine-like, evn though there have been attempts to make them as such. So let me explain what I mean. The metaphor of the machine has had an enormous sway in the century following Gallileo, Kepler and Newton. De la mettrie is an obvious example, but the machine as a metaphor for a healthy, orderly society has been very compelling as an organising principle, introducing standards of human conducts and the like. As such our ways of describing success often uses traces of the machine metaphor: the show is running well; the fact that a machine itself uses metaphors of another order, like running, does confuse the issue: an process that is running well is being compared to a machine, a well-oiled machine.

The paradigm of machinery has undergone an understandable reaction. First of all the machine is not a metaphor indigenous to Africa. Society in Subsharan Africa was far more stable than that of Europe, serviced by far more permanent images. As such, the machine, the metaphor of the machine has never exercised its compelling view on the African contingent of Jamaica as it has done in the industrialised nations. Life here is not a machine. But there is a far more insidious reason for the lack of a machine aesthetic. In Jamaica, slavery nearly succeeded in turing its objects into machines, literally. STOP

 

MEMORY AND MACHINES: FEELING AND ARCHITECTURE

The compound collision of these continents, and the consquent rupturing of established ways of being has itself produced new ways of being. The collisions, and their concommittent rupturings forced a loss of identity. The search for an identity and for a collective ego one has generated an extraordinary capacity for intense feeling that expresses itself in all sorts of ways.

 

There are many who wear their feeling like clothes, alternately there are equally many who sublimate it. There are many preachers and much chatter in Jamaica. The chatter represents a sublimation, a denial, an escape which does not want to see the awful side of life: they are largely responsible for the architecture of retreat.

THE MACHINE AESTHETIC

It is the derivative which holds sway over Jamaicaís desire for material wealth. The machines working the factories are those which are cheap becuse they have been discarded by the well-off countries, having done their duty or unable to according to the Westís demands. D&G works with bottling machines which used to work elswhere and discarded in the surge for renewal. Jamaica is the end of the foodchain as far as recycled machinery. Only in its struggle to keep up does Jamaica justify its third world status. Where it is independent it is vibrant.