An Encyclopedic Photographic Memory of Ephemera

I enjoy accusing others of illiteracy. “Don’t you people read?” I ask my students. “If you’d read the copy, you’d understand why the image works,” I say to clients, but in a nicer way. “For the love of God put down that iPhone and get a book,” I tell my niece and nephews. Then I find I am as guilty of the same sin.

I have a book about the 1964 World’s Fair. I’ve never read it. I do, however, know each and every illustration, color palette, and photograph in the book. Who knows what it is about? I’m too distracted by the tiny drawings on divider pages. To make matters worse, I deconstruct the meaning of the imagery. And I make odd connections that require an encyclopedic photographic memory of ephemera. Fortunately, I have this. For example, the overview of the Fair is surprisingly similar to the layout of Epcot, which is a sort of permanent world’s fair (or beer walk, depending on your interest.) Finally, the color palette for the fair preview images is exactly the same as the preview book for Walt Disney World, published a few years later. Coincidence? You be the judge.










Everyone Knows It's Windy

I’ve read multiple essays on the “zen-ness” and subtext of “nothingness” of Charles Eames’ Do Nothing Machine. He designed the object in 1958, and it didn’t do “nothing”; it moved with the use of solar power. It may have been a comment on the psychology and consumerism of late 1950s America, but I can’t stop thinking about its relationship to the Tower of the Four Winds.

Rolly Crump at Disney designed the Tower of the Four Winds for the front of Pepsi/Unicef's "It's a Small World" at the 1964 New York World’s Fair. It looked like the Do Nothing Machine, had parts that spun around, and was powered by a natural element. Hmmm. The difference was scale. The Tower was 120 feet and the Machine looks like it was 1 foot tall. Of course, this could have been one of those moments when one designs something and forgets about the original inspiration that is deep in the unconscious mind. In the end, though, who cares? Both the Tower and Machine are incredible. In fact I think more are needed. Household sized Do Nothing machines (not if you have children who will put their hands into it) and a Tower of the Four Winds for backyard usage (unless you have bird migration).

Charles Eames, Do Nothing Machine, 1958

1964 New York World's Fair, Pepsi/Unicef Pavilion

Charles Eames and the Machine