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  • Holger Dielenberg

I print, therefore I make. A geek’s revenge


The old boat builders I grew up with are an archaic breed carved out of old knowledge and romanced by the sea. For all their rough muscle and lack of refinement you can sense in them an intimate attention to finer things.

With a depth of knowledge for material shaping, these blokes effortlessly translate the natural relationship of form and function into works of aesthetic beauty. To them the modern world and computers are all hocus pocus.

The old guard. Working by their side you learn a thing or two that you won’t find on the streets.

My family were boat builders and many nights were spent in the a yacht galley to the roar of arguments about the onslaught of machines. They would fade to a whimpering, “I built this ship with my very own hands…”

The clash of old meets new was personified best by Karl as he defied progress with pure skill. Staunch, salty and smelled of saw dust. He could cut a perfectly straight line, five metres long through a slab of timber with an old hand saw. Without pause.

It was back in the late seventies and little did Karl know that a tidal wave of technology was about to take the wind out of his sails. As his fingers grew thick with callouses, younger boat builders embraced computer aided design and only two decades later, entire yacht blanks were being plotted by tech heads, milled by massive CNC machines and fibre glassed with chopper guns. The geeks were closing in around him and although Karl had a gentle soul, his blood began to churn like a boiling sea.

“Machines don’t understand why they cut! They cannot build beauty!” he’d stubbornly curse. But he knew he was wrong and his days were numbered.

Fast forward to early two thousand. After many years apart, Karl and I built a house together. He leaned against the framing and asked, “Holger, you used computers in the movies. I have a son now. He’s on the internet... ALL the time. Coding he says. He wants me to buy him a 3D printer. What are they?” I tried to explain but the closest parallel Karl could agree on to rapid prototyping was clay pot coils.

Watching his face at that moment was like seeing two worlds in collision… in more ways than one. “People say someday machines will make anything. It’s true isn’t it?”

Karl looked up at the sky and rubbed his chest. He didn’t quite fall and I steadied him. He didn’t return to work for a few weeks after that. The boiling sea of Karl’ blood now pumps thanks to technology implants wired inside his rib cage. A cursed blessing for a man like him. The very thing threatening his profession now saving his life.

Milan the labourer did all the hard work from then on. Milan liked to solve problems and Karl tried to hold onto the reins, “remember Milan, I’m the brains and you’re the muscle.” But Milan sensed his opportunity and lifting himself up on the trusses like Fiddler on the Roof, the mad Milan bellowed, “It’s the geek’s revenge Karl! The son becomes the father. Just with new toys! Your life is an Opera!”

The earth stood still. Karl was pinned to the spot and stared at something that none of us could see. Evolution seemed to grace him with a brief glimpse through a hole in space and time. It only lasted a second and he blinked, “you shouldn’t think too much Milan. It’s not good for you”.

His face was pale but visibly calm. The cruel and beautiful irony of progress was melting Karl’s troubles into tragic poetry.

Raising his chisel into the air, clutching it with knotted fingers that had been sewn back together more than once, the final act was delivered. “I do not understand many things about the future. But for my son I know, technology is not his revenge against me. It is his redemption. He will make what I cannot.”

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