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The Wish Machine - 1997-2021
by Chrysanne Stathacos

The Wish Machine is a social sculpture – an interactive art work in the form of a re-fabricated vending machine. Wrapped in a photo mural of a wishing tree from India that dispenses wishes that include an artist multiple - a printed photo - collage depicting a plant and a small vial of that plant's essential oil extending the wishing ritual into a multi sensory experience. The wishes invoke a range of human desires: love, money, lust, peace, sleep, communication, happiness, and health. Each desire is paired with an essential oil (rose=love, lavender=happiness, etc) that functions as a vehicle of the senses. for the participant to meditate on their wish. Since the act of wishing often pinpoints one’s desire for change; The Wish Machine has transformed busy public areas into spaces of reflection. The intention of the project is to promote peace and hope in our troubled world.

The Wish Machine was first commissioned by Creative Time in 1997 for Grand Central Station. Timed to coincide with Day With (out) Art in 1997, a website of The Wish Machine collected thousands of anonymous oral and written wishes from around the world, including wishes from refugee children calling for peace and compassion. The collected wishes were compiled into the publication, 1000+ Wishes (1999) to coincide with a four-month venue at The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, Toronto. Since its inception over 70,000 people have interacted with The Wish Machine on four continents at train stations, museums, galleries and public spaces. In 2008, The Wish Machine was presented at 48˚ C Public Art Ecology, the first public art festival in New Delhi, and marked a return full circle to the city where The Wish Machine was first conceived in 1995, when Chrysanne Stathacos came across a wishing tree at the Chharthapur Mandi.

2009 marked the publication of the monograph, The Wish Machine Travels which includes 69 color plates of Stathacos' public art projects, installations, and photography and texts by AA Bronson, Jennifer Fisher & Jim Drobnick, Amy Lipton, Heike Strelow, Peter Nagy, Marcus Boon in addition to Christopher Isherwood’s seminal short story, The Wishing Tree (1944). The publication of this monograph is a significant marker as it is the culmination of over 15 years of work and travels.

The Wish Machine has been presented at train stations, museums, galleries and public space on four continent. In addition the project also traveled to the Frankfurt Train Station, Germany; Natural Reality, The Ludwig Forum Museum, Aachen, Germany; AIDS World, The Centre D'art Contemporain, Geneva, Switzerland; AIDS World, Centre D’art Contemporain Bellizonna, Switzerland; Vital Signs, Concordia University, Montreal, Canada; What's The Use, Jean Paul Slusser Gallery, University of Michigan; Odor Limits, Esther M. Klein Gallery Science Center, Philadelphia; Art in the Anchorage, Creative Time, New York; Lombard-Freid Fine Arts, New York and Botanica, Invisible Exports.

In 2020 Compound, a new cultural complex in the heart of the Zaferia district of Long Beach, commissioned a Wish Machine for 2021. Compound is dedicated to the intersection of art, wellness, and community engagement.