Five years ago Minnesota artist Kenneth Steinbach stole some lumber from the grounds of Charles Lindbergh’s house and museum in Little Falls, Northern Minnesota. From this found material he whittled 2600 pencils: the meticulously fabricated individual art objects that make up The Machine in the Ghost.
Charles Lindbergh (b. 1902 - d. 1974) was a very particular kind of American hero; Minnesotan, aviator, inventor, author, family man, enthusiastic National Socialist and admirer of Hitler. While not the first person to pilot non-stop across the Atlantic, he was the first man to cross that expanse alone. His importance to the creation myth of 20th century America is in his conscious manifestation of his own destiny in a single, decisive and solo will to immortality, taking to the empty skies in The Spirit of St Louis and piloting into history.
The Machine in the Ghost is a memento mori to individual action. Each carving, stemming from an impulsive aquisition, is a distinct action of the artist, and each horizontal penetration could symbolize the result of a separate and equal decision to take control of our own destiny. Each pencil is thrust into the wall, as we might have done with our own school pencils in a futile and childish attempt to kill time, to make our own mark, to take control of writing our own story.
Lindbergh could see this as celebration of the primacy of the individual over the group. But The Machine in the Ghost is a dying fall; what we see here is not real, the pencils are merely carvings, and what we understand is that all of our actions, however defining, mock-heroic, singular or self-satisfying, are only what they are; pencils stuck in the wall.
Ben Heywood, Minneapolis, MN