Steven Laurie

Donut Machine, 2008-09

As an open-ended comment on the spectacular realm of commerce and exchange dominating the eastern section of the City of Kingston, The Donut Machine by Toronto-based artist, Steven Laurie was presented at the Cataraqui Mall. This custom-designed, petrol-fuelled, 10 horsepower machine is constructed from back-yard equipment parts, and car and truck components bought from ‘big-box’ hardware stores like Canadian Tire and Princess Auto. The stylish black and red finishings, stainless steel exhaust pipe, custom chain guard, orange Chevy engine-block fender, and ornamental decals have all been painstakingly chosen, built, tested, and re-tested by the artist himself. This kind of attention to detail is reminiscent of the countless hours of labour put in by motor enthusiasts and car-lovers building and customizing their own vehicles in home garages across the country. But unlike a beloved sports car or an old Ford, which has the practical use of transporting people from one place to another, the only thing the Donut Machine can really do is generate a whole lot of obnoxious noise, raise huge plumes of grey-blue smoke, and burn rubber!

Even though they might be functionless, Laurie’s homebrew machines are completely functioning. For example, in his Burn Out performances, Laurie uses the Donut Machine to literally “burn rubber” by holding it like a rototiller and skidding it across a patch of existing cement or asphalt (such as a parking lot or a street). This action creates a predetermined pattern of blackened circles, curves, ‘donuts’, and marks much like those left behind by bravado-filled race car drivers showing off their torque to a crowd of cheering motor fans at a speedway. In fact, Laurie’s machines have been described as “hyper-masculine” – a reference to the conspicuous display of muscle, power, and aggression required for their operation. It leaves us wondering: in today’s contemporary culture of consumption, can masculinity be bought in the form of gadgets, gizmos, or customized gear?

Steven Laurie is originally from the Oshawa and Whitby Ontario area. He graduated from the Ontario College of Art and Design with honors in the disciplines of sculpture/installation, receiving the Seiji Award for Public Installation/Social Sculpture and the George A. Reid Award for Proficiency in Sculpture and Installation. Steven completed his Masters of Fine Arts degree at the University of Western Ontario and is a recipient of Canada Council for the Arts and Ontario Arts Council Project Assistance Grants. Recent solo and group exhibitions profiling his work include; Jacked!,  Machinations: Kinetic Sculpture in the Age of Open Source,  Death Can Dance,  Clutch,  and  Speed Demon. He currently lives and has a studio in Toronto Ontario Canada.

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