Michael Dinges: Lifeboat: The Wreck of the Invisible Hand & Dead Laptop Series.

“Underwater” is a neologism—referring to the state of owing more on one’s home than its current market value—arising in the wake of the collapse of the housing bubble in the late 2000s. Not coincidentally, “underwater” is what one might feel when confronted by Michael Dinges’ Lifeboat: The Wreck of the Invisible Hand, a full-sized replica of a whaling boat fabricated of vinyl home siding and engraved with images and text exploring the intertwined stories of labor, consumerism and the environment, and the political and social fallout resulting from the excesses of globalization.  The orientation of Lifeboat to the viewer is such that, were the boat afloat in water, the onlooker’s head would be just above the water line.

Dinges’ use of a Dremel tool to engrave the surfaces of 21st century objects and material—including the plastic chair and the dead laptop computers seen here—derives from the maritime practice of scrimshaw, the engraving of whale bones or teeth, which originated in the mid-1700s.  With Lifeboat, Dinges combines the form of a whaling boat with his own adaptation of scrimshaw to trace the timeline of our consumerist tendencies and attendant environmental destruction back to the original global workers—whalers.  Working at the dawn of the industrial revolution to meet an ever-increasing demand for fuel in the form of whale oil, they destroyed the very source of their livelihood, hunting whales nearly to extinction and altering the ocean ecosystem.  The scrimshaw art they made on their journeys using whale bones—the waste product of the whaling industry—often included poetry, and transformed refuse into beautiful, even valuable objects that outlived their makers. (Read Full Press Release.)


All works appear courtesy of Packer Schopf Gallery, unless otherwise noted.
Artist Website.


Michael Dinges
Engraved Surface Text:
Lifeboat: The Wreck of the Invisible Hand, 2011

Every Process Creates Disorder x 6

The Albatross will be your guide
For in its belly does death reside
Plastic morsels locked inside
Yield dry bones in a rising tide

Unhappy to have it
Unhappy to loose it
Things loose their joy
Because of its habit

Big Dippers
Bail Bail Bail Bail Bail

Bubble trouble
Folly and lust
It’s human nature
To boom and bust

Regulation deferred
Is regulation denied
What’s up with that?

We meet our destiny
on the road to avoid it

Due diligence
or accelerated heat death


Our arrogance prevents us from recognizing our incompetence

A sorry deed is to define
The hearts desire of all things fine
Short is the road towards decline
When all will call the same thing mine

Be aware of RFID

Of all those sent to grant your wishes
Beware the school of pilot fishes
For in the playground in the rye
There’s sure to be a shark nearby

Octopus arms:
Long chain polymers
Greedy Bastards
Complex Incompetence

We have become incentivised
to see what we want to see


Everything is a racket

Don’t ignore the exceptional fat tails

Be aware of the wake

Remember the Essex

Maximizing growth creates crisis

In unstable equilibrium, the center of gravity is above the point of support

Call for ecological economics

Financial Services Financial Services Financial Services

Every institution tends to perish by an excess of its own basic principle

Spheres of special influence
Lead to widespread turbulence
While concentration on GDP
Leads to increased entropy

The often wrong but never in doubt
Cause tribulation the world throughout
For they that seek to reap the whole
Take too much and break the bowl

All it takes to gum up the works
Is the ruthlessness of a handful of jerks

What is the true cost of what is too cheap?

Bend your backs to the oar for long is the task
And lo the spirit is aching.
Hand over hand, the work will be done
For redemption is found in the making

The right arm doesn’t know what the other seven are doing

Financial Services Financial Services Financial Services Financial Services

Bow text:
Go forth and sin no more

Transom Text:
Optimism is cowardice & it’s too late for pessimism

The Invisible Hand

Reckless Reckless Reckless

The end crowns the work

We do our part

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