Engineering Desire / The Mechanical Stone Skipper

Duncan Cameron MacLeod
May 6, 2014 8:21AM

Engineering Desire / The Mechanical Stone Skipper


Mixed Media


Engineering Desire is a mechanical stone skipper engineered to maximize the capacity for refractions of one found stone thrown on the surface of a body of water. The machine consists of a 20cc petrol engine with gearing mechanism that rotates the throwing arm to 8000 rpm. Stones are thrown over 90 meters in distance at approximately 40-60 skips.

exhibited:Blank Project Space – Cape Town, South Aftrica


“Cameron MacLeod’s Engineering Desire is a machine designed to skip stones across water. Essentially a motor driving a whirling arm held level by struts and feet, it sits inscrutably on the gallery floor. I found myself crawling around it tracing levers and springs to see how it worked. On the wall a video shows the machine at work. Sitting on the bank of a serene translucent lake, it fires its stone. What results is something close to pure aesthetic bliss (seen through a haze of video pixels). The stone taps out a perfect Fibonacci sequence on the surface of the water, and at the end of its ridiculously long journey curves into a spiral. This exquisite act lead me on three different trains of thought.

Firstly, there seems to be a tendency in current art to search out the formal, or the purely aesthetic. The act of skimming a stone as art is as depoliticized, as clean as a Norwegian lake. Its an act of privilege, as middle-class as a stroll, ennui or a course in art history.

Secondly, this feeling was offset by the absolute bizarreness of the machine. It reminds me of something from, the ultimate DIY website. The website is a mix of a desperate investment in making as a search for meaning and a tight and active sense of community.

Thirdly, I was struck by a memory of my father, walking on the beach and teaching my brothers and I how to skip stones on the flat water between swells. A machine that achieves the perfect skip seems to me to be a negation of the father mixed with a need for masculine approval. The building of a DIY machine also reminds me of a disenfranchised masculinity: the garage-tinkerer, the woodworker or the after-hours mechanic bashing around with tools to fend off a creeping sense of the uselessness of traditional masculinity in a changing world. Except Macleod’s machine works.”

Chad Rossouw, excerpt from Arthrob publishing, 2012Full Article

Duncan Cameron MacLeod
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