The archive of unrealized devices | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 7, Issue 3
  • ISSN: 1753-5190
  • E-ISSN: 1753-5204



Google Patents is an eight-year-old virtual searchable database containing the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and the European Patent Office (EPO) patents, with US patent applications dating back to 1790. This searchable online archive of invention, novelty and innovation is a valuable tool for designers and researchers. As a point of departure for recent art-based research, Google Patents online database is mined by me as a creative practitioner. As an artist-hacker, the found material used in my research arises from patent searches for fantastical machines and devices developed to assist with swimming, dating from the 1870s to the early twentieth century. The retrieved patent, etched drawings and information evidence an understanding of a new sport at particular moments in time. However, almost all of these patents remained ‘unrealized’, only contained within the drawing and text of the patent itself. These patents are used as the visual and conceptual basis for The Swimming Machine Archive (2014), a growing body of collages featuring fictional devices for moving through water.


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