History,  Provenance and General Information

A detail of the top of Machine with 23 Scraps of Paper
Arthur Ganson presents a few MACHINES created between 1978 and 2004 - DVD case

Machine with 23 Scraps of Paper

(original video document)

A detail of the gears of Machine with 23 Scraps of Paper
Tri-Flow lubricant bottle
Machine with 23 Scraps of Paper in its crate


Machine with 23 Scraps of  Paper was constructed in 1996.  Two identical pieces were built side by side.  One was acquired by a collector in Germany and its twin, the piece available now,  was acquired by the vintner Carl Doumani. It lived in the Quixote Winery in Napa, CA, a building designed by Frederick Hundertwasser, until recently when the winery was sold.  Included is a letter from Mr. Doumani in which he reflects on his experience with the sculpture and Hundertwasser’s personal experience with 23 Scraps!


Machine with 23 Scraps of Paper was an evolutionary response to a previous work, Prayer Wheels, built in 1993.  That initial exploration of the idea featured more literal ‘bird-wings’ made of white-painted brass.  23 Scraps was followed by Machine with 11 Scraps of Paper in 1999 and finally Machine with 22 Scraps of Paper in 2003.  With each piece in the series, different engineering and architectural solutions for the driving mechanism have been explored, along with different numbers and arrangements of scraps of paper.

Machine with 11 Scraps of Paper, currently on exhibit at the MIT Museum in Cambridge, uses  worm to worm gear exchanges to activate the scraps. Machine with 22 Scraps of Paper, which resides in the permanent collection of  the Museum of Science in Boston, employs cam rings and is the direct descendent of 23 Scraps.  Machine with 23 Scraps of Paper is the version included on the video "Arthur Ganson Presents a Few Machines: Created between 1978 and 2004", originally on VHS and then as a DVD.  Over the years, thousands have made their way around the world.  The original video documentation of 23 Scraps is available online here.


The recent engineering changes to 23 Scraps  involve minor upgrades to the camshafts and a  fundamental redesign of the body clips that hold the scraps of paper to the tips of the vertical rods.  The original body clip was made by soldering wire to a tiny brass tube.  Some of these clips broke over time. The current clip, developed for the subsequent pieces in this series, is a single bent piece of spring wire.  It is simpler, more functional and in my opinion more elegant. A few of the original body clips will be included with the piece- both for historical reference and because it feels like a nice thing for the next owner to have.


An aesthetic change was made during the final moments of re-assembly. The scraps of paper have been ripped more freely in shape and size and careful bends have been replaced with crumpled gestures.  This change allows for more diverse interpretations by the viewer. The new scraps are archival white tissue paper.


As all machines will require maintenance, the care of Machine with 23 Scraps of Paper has been carefully addressed.  Shipped with the piece will be a specific lubricant containing PTFE (a lifetime’s supply in a little bottle), extra tissue paper, a hole punching guide for the creation of new scraps, spare wing and body clips.   A detailed maintenance manual which explains crating, uncrating, lubrication and new scrap making and installation will be included with the piece and will be available online. The acquirer of this piece must understand and agree to the minimal maintenance that will be required over time.


The shipping crate, engineered specifically for 23 Scraps, is important for transporting the piece and must not be discarded!   Built with engineered materials to allow shipping anywhere in the world, it has been well labeled and treated with polyurethane for water resistance.  The front panel has perimeter gaskets and the crate has integrated skids to further guard against water damage. The acquirer of this piece must be prepared to store the crate.   The piece will be shipped directly from my studio near Chicago, USA via a fine art handler. Shipping costs within the United States are included in the purchase.


Machine with 23 Scraps of Paper can be shipped and installed anywhere in the world.  The motor is rated at 120 VAC, 60 Hz. If standard voltage in your region is 240 VAC,  50 Hz., a step-down transformer will be necessary. At 50 Hz. the piece will run a bit more slowly (⅚ the speed to be precise).  In my opinion this is not an issue. I have often exhibited pieces of this series throughout Europe and the slightly slower speed feels perfectly fine.



It is  recommended that the machine not run continuously when not observed.  The mechanism of 23 Scraps can run 24 hours a day for years with no issue.   However, considering longevity, it does make sense to run the machine only when it is being witnessed.  Either a timer, a motion detector or a switch are good solutions depending on the situation. I am happy to assist with making those decisions.



The sculpture comes with a 2-year warranty covering repairs due to faulty materials and/or workmanship.   Repairs due to mistreatment or accidental damage will be charged at the current standard shop rate at the time.  Shipping charges each way will be the responsibility of the owner. In any case, I will always be willing to repair the piece if necessary.