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Pressure + Flow

Artist: Matthew DockeryMedium: Steel sculptureCommissioned by the City of Tacoma

Rendering of the proposed art piece Pressure + Flow, which depicts the interior of a piston steam engine
Pressure + Flow | Rendering of the proposed piece, which will be completed by Spring 2018

A two-part installation, Pressure + Flow is a reflection on the power of technology and communication to transform a landscape. Pressure is a sculpture inspired by the inner workings of a steam engine, and Flow involves etched writing applied directly to the historic Prairie Line rails, excerpted from historic documents and letters.

About the art+

Pressure + Flow reveals the hidden mechanisms, both technical and cultural, that have carried us into the present. As we travel daily in cars, bikes, and planes, it is easy to take for granted the complex machines working to get us to our destinations. Pressure unveils the inner workings of a steam-powered train engine like those used in the early railroad era, providing an opportunity to interact with the usually unseen piston and pipes.

Alongside rail lines came telegraph towers, marking a revolution in communication technology. Trains transported immigrants from all over the world to Tacoma, and each traveler brought their own stories and cultures with them. Excerpts from historical documents, journals, oral histories, telegrams, and letters are etched in different languages into the remaining historical railroad tracks along the trail, representing the flow of new communities into the area alongside the original occupants of Tacoma – the Puyallup.

This artwork encourages us to look more deeply at how we arrived where we are today, and provides snapshots of the many stories embedded along the Prairie Line.

Pressure + Flow will be installed by Spring 2018. 

Meet the artist+

Matthew Dockery is a Seattle-area industrial artist who works in metal, electronics, wood and textiles.  The history of technology provides the inspiration for much of his work, and he has a special love for machines, gadgets, gears that mesh properly, and history. His work has been featured on the Discovery Channel, at Greenwich Observatory in London, at the annual Burning Man festival, and around the Pacific Northwest.  Dockery describes his work as “living at the intersection of gears and mad science.” 

When asked how Pressure + Flow tells the Prairie Line’s story, Dockery replied, “In many ways, the railroad is Tacoma’s story. It was just another small town until the Northern Pacific made it their terminus.” Dockery insists that in many ways society is still moving to the frontier: “There are still such things as real estate bubbles and speculation, risk and reward, boom and bust.”

Visit Matthew Dockrey's website. 

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Got a personal connection, story, or inspirational comment you'd like to share about what you've experienced on the Prairie Line Trail? Here's your chance to make your story part of history.

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