Right now I’m helping clients install a new washing machine and my parents install a new flat-screen television, so I’m especially attentive to the magical powers of shiny new machines.
Sculptor Danh Vo made this piece, “Oma Totem,” from gifts (television, refrigerator, washing machine) his grandmother received from a Roman Catholic relief agency when she arrived in Germany in the 1980’s from Vietnam. It’s intentionally soulless, drained of power. There’s none of the glamor of new machines, the splendor of church iconography, or the drama of Vo’s grandmother’s personal journey. But the piece captures very nicely how inert appliances really are. They’re just implements that help us get things done.