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Moving Parts

Tinguely Museum, Basel

Forms of the Kinetic. The exhibition jointly conceived and organised by the Kunsthaus Graz and the Museum Tinguely Basel asks questions about the particular nature of machinery and the link between man and machines at the beginning of the 21st century. At the same time, the exhibition will investigate the importance of kinetic art for contemporary artists. With works by Hans Haacke, Rebecca Horn, Stephan von Huene, Piotr Kowalski, Bruce Nauman, Jason Rhoades, Jesus Rafael Soto, Guenther Uecker and many others. Curator Pontus Hulten

comunicato stampa

Forms of the Kinetic

An exhibition in cooperation with Kunsthaus Graz

“The fact is that modern technology is anonymous, all-embracing and discreet: discreet partly because it can entirely conceal the wheel and circular movement, for instance in computers, while my sculptures depend on that very principle of the wheel and the circle in motion. But because technology has become silent, using design to disguise itself beneath smooth casings and streamlined shapes, it makes us forget that we are dominated by it and live in a technological age that really began only three generations ago. My machine sculptures are intended to bring that fact to light again. But they can do so only if there is a certain distance in time between them and the technological apparatus now in use. [...] Art would have to give up if it tried keeping pace with the latest technological inventions. As a sculptor, I must try to create structures with visible form, while technology, as I was saying, moves the other way, into increasingly impenetrable anonymity.”

These comments by Jean Tinguely, a master of 20th-century kinetic art, seem from today’s point of view almost prophetic because the anonymity of machines, the disguise of technical processes and our obliviousness to everyday mechanized life belong to the laws of the digital age.

The topicality of machine art does not only derive from its opposition to the technology used today and of which it tries to reveal the non-transparent mechanisms. It is rather the characteristic of the machine and its relationship to the human being that is in question in connection with the ever topical overlapping between biological and artificial organisms at the beginning of the 21st century.

The definition of the contemporary status of machine art in the face of these topics forms the basis of the concept of our exhibition entitled “Moving Parts”.

The exhibition has been jointly conceived and organized by the Kunsthaus in Graz and the Museum Tinguely in Basel; it takes as its point of departure and orientation the legendary exhibition “The Machine” held at the Museum of Modern Art in 1968. Its aim was no less than to document the development of artistic machines and machine art from the Renaissance to the second half of the 20th century. The curator, Pontus Hulten, gave this ambitious project the significant subtitle of “The Machine as seen at the end of the mechanical age”. In the late 1960s, like many of his contemporaries, he considered the end of that age imminent. What he regarded as the coming electronic epoch was linked in his mind with radical changes which he described in emphatic terms: “By the year 2000, technology will undoubtedly have made such advances that our environment will be as different from that of today as our present world differs from ancient Egypt.” In that respect, the exhibition he organized could (and should) also be seen as both a survey of a whole epoch and a farewell to it. It was an epoch in which machinery had served as a disciplinary model even for the human body, while art had been fascinated by the clarity, precision and elegance of mechanical devices.

Today, having arrived on this side of the transition from the electronic to the digital age, we see things rather more soberly. It is not just that Hulten’s visions now appear as antiquated as those of Bellamy or Jules Verne must have looked to his own contemporaries – which is symptomatic, not least, of the increasingly short sell-by date of Utopias – but also that the typically Modernist belief in progress expressed in his title, in which artistic development appeared to be possible only in one direction, all allegedly “outdated” ideas having been finally abandoned, now proves to be a historical attitude itself.

«Moving parts» asks questions about the topicality of machine and kinetic art for contemporary artists and outlines a history of this art in an epoch that starts immediately after the exhibition “The Machine”. In the opening section, works by Yaacov Agam, Pol Bury, Gerhard von Graevenitz, Hans Haacke, Rebecca Horn, Stephan von Huene, Piotr Kowalski, Bruce Nauman, Jason Rhoades, Jesus Rafaël Soto, Jean Tinguely, Guenther Uecker, Krysztof Wodiczko and many others prove the relevance of kinetics for the development of art from the mid 20th century until today.

A second part presents works of contemporary artists who work in the field of machine art and have been commissioned to contribute to the exhibition: Especially for «Moving parts» Thomas Baumann, Julien Berthier, Malachi Farrell, Joachim Fleischer, Jeppe Hein, Wendy Jacob, Fernando Palma Rodriguez, Sabrina Raaf, Werner Reiterer, Jason Rhoades, Martin Walde and Christiaan Zwanikken have created different kinds of works: Raaf and Hein recode viewer participation. Berthier and Jacob create apparatuses for new forms of social interaction. And while in the installations of Farrell and Palma Rodriguez the narrative and theatrical play a major part, Zwanikken and Walde work at the interface between organism and apparatus.

A richly illustrated exhibition catalogue with contributions by Guy Brett, Söke Dinkla, Rolf Pfeifer and Britta Glatzeder, Christian Theo Steiner, Peter Weibel as well as a foreword by Guido Magnaguagno and an introduction by Peter Pakesch accompanies the show. Also included are commentaries and interviews on the exhibition projects and short commentaries on all other works.

Heinz Stahlhut, Exhibition Curator

Moving Parts. Forms of the Kinetic
A symposium on the conservation and restoration of kinetic art in cooperation with RESTAURO
Museum Tinguely, Basel, April 8 and 9, 2005

On the occasion of the exhibition Museum Tinguely and the magazine RESTAURO organize a symposium open to the public on the conservation and restoration of kinetic art. Artists, Conservators, Art historians etc. will in lectures and discussions in the exhibition present different aspects of the subject.

Fritz Billeter: Interview with Jean Tinguely, in Das Kunstwerk XX, 9/10, 1966, pp. 15.

Image: Sabrina Raaf: Translator II: Grower 2004. Aluminium, mechanics, electronics and control box
50,8 x 45,7 x 40,6 cm. Collection of the artist

Museum Jean Tinguely
Paul Sacher-Anlage 1

Haroon Mirza
dal 9/6/2015 al 5/9/2015

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