Conveyor Belt, Lucas Baisch (Chicago, IL). 
May 2017. Collection paper, typewriters, ink, wood.

Conveyor Belt is a text-based installation that emerged from the artist’s attraction to two collection typewriters: the Olivetti Lettera 32 and the Sears Courier. After reviving the machines and researching their histories, Baisch discovered that both typewriters were modeled after the Olivetti Lettera 22, a typewriter that gained mass appeal in the United States as manual portables increased in demand. The machines were fabricated in factories in Mexico City and Barcelona and exist today as tangible products of foreign labor exportation.

The project presents a narrative between the two typewriters through a series of letters, typed on collection paper. The conversation feeds into both machine carriages, creating a belt. The narrative imagines the machines as voiced entities, engaging in a dialogue that reflects upon their shared experiences—of waiting for shipment and finding only resentment and unfulfilled dreams in the United States. The belt form alludes to the cyclical nature of production, the process of migration, and the past/present hybridity of time and era employed within the narrative.

Activating the agency of the machines, Baisch’s writings, too, undermine the audience’s desire to imbue them with humanity. Supplemental texts surround the scrolling structure, illustrating the objects as vessels for language, translation, and an understanding of origin. Their conversation surrounding Anglo and Latin American labor exportation to the U.S. functions as a space for Baisch to personally reflect, as a mixed race White- and Latinx-identifying artist contemplating the action of cultural compromise and dismissal.