Students leave their mark in a manufacturing laboratory

October 14, 1998

Students leave their mark in a manufacturing laboratory

EDITORS: Color prints available on request.

ANN ARBOR—Students from the University of Michigan’s School of Art and Design left their mark on the University. Amid the hum of machinery in the Integrated Manufacturing Systems Laboratory (IMSL), Mark Pomilio’s students left their impression of the Lab’s operation in a mural of browns and blacks with wheels and gears, geometric forms and pulleys Officially known as the Reconfigural Machining Systems Mural, the work uses the still medium of paint to create visualization of functioning machines. The artists incorporated simple forms as repetitive elements that combine and transform into individualized elements from left to right across the wall. The work even encompasses and incorporates the building’s existing stand-pipes. After nearly a year of transformation, what was a library at the U-M’s College of Engineering became the IMSL and home to a visual manifestation of the processes inherent to the new facility. The collaborative project between the College of Engineering and U-M’s School of Art and Design resulted in a two-semester class under the direction of Mark Pomilio, adjunct assistant professor of art, that explored the complexities of site-specific art from a historical context to the practical application of producing working drawings and scale models for presentation and eventual implementation.

Students visited the Detroit Institute of Arts where they studied the large-scale frescoes of Diego Rivera who was commissioned in 1932 to produce a work that exemplified Detroit and Detroit manufacturing, illustrating both the positive and potentially negative aspects of assembly-line production of the automobile.

A visit to Ford’s modern Romeo Engine Plant proved to be a contrast to Rivera’s work at the DIA, the most dramatic difference being the ratio of machinery to men, with the modern machines far outnumbering the workers.

With this contrasting information, Pomilio’s students were asked to take Rivera’s concept of using the manufacturing plant as a catalyst for developing a visual language that reflected the contemporary context of the IMSL. The early conceptual drawings were void of figuration, but rich in the concepts of integration, manipulation, duplication and variation, all of which are at the core of the IMSL facility.

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