Kinetic, a word that derives from the Greek word kinetikos, from kinetos, stands for movement or motion. In an ample sense the word concerns all that regards or is produced by movement. Kinetic art therefore is relative to all those works of art that foresee movements of parts, or depend on motion for their execution.
From the beginning of the 20th century until today, Kinetic art has continued to explore new forms of expression, reaching a high point in recent years: The opening toward digital experimentation, nano-technologies, and light and sound waves.
Recently my curiosity was increasingly attracted to this kind of research. Last year I had the pleasure of discovering a fantastic artist/inventor/composer, Trimpin, through Peter Esmonde‘s film, Trimpin, the Sound of Invention. In January I visited an exhibition about Alexander Calder at the Palazzo delle Esposizioni in Rome. After that, a whole fair dedicated to kinetic art: The Kinetica Art Fair in London, from the 4th to the 7th of February 2010, an event that was at its second edition, produced and developed by the Kinetica Museum.
The programme of the fair was explicative and rich: an exhibition, dedicated to the pioneers of kinetic art, and a series of never-seen-before international exhibitors, meetings, conferences, live performances and practical demonstrations. It took place in a space of 14,000 sq.m. called Ambika P3, on Marylebone Road. The size and success of the fair were a strong signal of the increasing interest in kinetic art in the art world and the general public. To be able to do a detailed report on the whole fair is almost impossible and destined to failure or superficiality at the least.
For this reason, we preferred to tell something about the event through the words of its protagonists: the artistic director of the Kinetic Art Fair, Dianne Harris, and some of the artists and designers that triggered my curiosity and with whom I had pleasant conversations: the Squidsoup collective, the Jason Bruges Studio and the Arthertz group. The result is a dynamic, or we could say kinetic, patchwork, which fully reflects the atmosphere of this unique event. Happy reading…
1 – An interview to Kinetica Art Museum director: Diane Harris
Alessandra Migani: I think it would be interesting to know a bit more about your background and how the idea of Kinetica came about?
Dianne Harris: In 2004 I set up ‘The Luminaries’ a small gallery in West London to show the work I was making at the time and also to invite other artists working in the realms of kinetic, electronic and interactive work to exhibit. Having worked as an artist in London for 12 years I was disillusioned with the art scene always focusing on the YBA phenomena with such a small group of artists, so thought I would start something off that was almost a backlash to this.
I showed artists such as Tim Lewis, Sam Buxton, Robert Pepperell and Hexstatic. The response was very good and this suggested there was a real need and interest for this type of art in the U.K. Tony Langford exhibited in the last show at The Luminaries and when the sponsorship of the space ran out I thought it would be great to do this on a much larger scale, Tony decided he would like to join me on this journey and together with another associate, Charlotte Dillon came Kinetica Museum.
In 2006 we received Arts council funding and sponsorship of a 14,000 sq ft space in Spitalfields Market, East London where we had 7 exhibitions of international kinetic, electronic & new media art. We received over 100,000 visitors. Kinetica Museum continues to tour with National and international exhibitions and in the last 2 years have produced Kinetica Art Fair.
Alessandra Migani: At the beginning of February you presented the second edition of Kinetica Art Fair with a growing international presence. Could you please tell me about your personal experience about the fair along with feedback from exhibitors and visitors and possible new projects/collaborations coming out from it?
Dianne Harris: The fair is an all encompassing experience. There are so many various strands to tie together, the exhibitors needs and their works, the arrangement/co-ordination of the spaces, the logistics of the transport, the set up / construction, the events programme of talks, presentations and performances, the catalogue, press, PR, marketing, merchandise, catering, invites, tickets, documentation, filming, photography the list goes on. The most exhilarating moment is the entire fair coming together in just a matter of hours. The set up is 3 days with everyone working towards the opening deadline.
As well as 100 other jobs on my list, I also curate the Kinetica areas, this year there were 10 in all, we exhibited 11 artists and I was also involved in co-curating the Kinetic Masters feature exhibition with Jasia Reichardt (Curator of Cybernetic Serendipity ICA London 1968) and John Dunbar (Director of Indica Gallery 1966) We loaned works from many private collections with works by the masters of Kinetic and Cybernetic Art from the late 1950s to early 1980s. This feature show grounded the contemporary works at the fair and put them into a historical context. It was a great experience to do this. The 2010 fair got a fantastic response. We had exhibitor representation from 11 different countries and received over 10,000 visitors over the 4 days with some great national and international press and T.V coverage from as far as China and Russia.
This year secured more art sales than last year which is very positive as the main point of the fair is to popularise artists and organisations working in these genres and to provide a new platform for the commercial enterprise of this field.
Alessandra Migani: I noticed that Kinetica Art Fair perfectly highlights how, nowadays, more and more artists cross the subtle line between ‘fine art disciplines’ and ‘multi-disciplinary new media’. Do you think technology is only a tool that new contemporary artists use? Or where do you see this line begins and ends?
Dianne Harris: Absoutely, “technology is only a tool that new contemporary artists use”. The latest interface systems, technological devices and new materials have helped take artworks into new realms, these however are the new paint-brushes for the works and though rely heavily on them for their technical abilities should not become the art or govern the concept of the work as it then becomes ‘technology for technology’s sake’. “We look for something in artworks beyond, what Roy Ascott has called, the “demonstration” of raw science or technology. The difficulty facing an artist is how to extract the musical from a synthesizer, or the poetic from a word processor.” Robert Pepperell – Kinetica Art Fair catalogue essay 2009.
Alessandra Migani: Where is human evolution going?
Dianne Harris :Every thought and idea has the potential to be realised, we live in a new dimension of no limitation and all possibility, these boarders have been broken through our current genetically engineered, nano-technological revolution. Many artists are leading the way forward and warping science, engineering, technology through their radical and unlimited ideas. The work of Stellarc is a good example of this.The words ‘Science Fiction’ are more commonly connected with books and films though nowadays it is everywhere, it is ultimately one’s thoughts and ideas manifested. What used to be called Science Fiction has now firmly become reality. Visions of the future have become true to a large extent.
Science fiction represents alternative possibilities that involve broadening the imagination and the discovery of new scientific, philosophical, psychological and spiritual principles, it represents the speculation of possible events based on the furtherance or destruction of this reality.
From Wikipedia Science fiction is a genre of fiction. Within the context of the story, its imaginary elements are largely possible within scientifically established or scientifically postulated laws of nature (though some elements in a story might still be pure imaginative speculation). Exploring the consequences of such differences is the traditional purpose of science fiction, making it a “literature of ideas”. Science fiction is largely based on writing rationally about alternative possibilities
These may include: “Stories that involve discovery or application of new scientific principles, such as time travel or psionics, or new technology, such as nanotechnology, faster-than-light travel or robots, or of new and different political or social systems (e.g., a dystopia, or a situation where organized society has collapsed). A setting in the future, in alternative timelines, or in a historical past that contradicts known facts of history or the archaeological record”. A setting in outer space, on other worlds, or involving aliens. Stories that involve technology or scientific principles that contradict known laws of nature.
2 – An interview to Squidsoup collective
Alessandra Migani: Anthony, would you like to introduce the Squidsoup collective?
Anthony Rowe: Squidsoup is a group of likeminded adventurers into the wilds of digital media arts. We started in 1997, and have metamorphosed a few times over the years, but our aim is to create immersive and creative headspaces using technology in unobtrusive ways. Since 2000, our main area of exploration has been the overlaps between physical and virtual space, sound and interaction. We have produced a range of digital installation-based work that uses various tools and technologies to create abstract, immersive and responsive environments.
Alessandra Migani: Ocean of Light is the project that you presented at Kinetica Art Fair. I have to admit that, after spending some time immersed in the ‘light particles/waves’, I felt so in tune with the work that I had to force myself to leave the room. Could you tell me the story behind this project? What are the feelings you want people to explore?
Anthony Rowe: That feeling of immersion, of forgetting where you are and letting yourself fall into this created space is exactly what we’re looking for. The idea of using a 3D grid of individually controllable lights the technical centre of Ocean of Light came about years ago by connecting two separate ideas. The first was seeing the work of Jim Campbell. He uses very low resolution 2D grids of lights to represent video and discovered that the results are in many ways far more interesting than the original source material. I wanted to see if we could do something similar in 3D as, after all, our visuals are often abstract and on the verge of indecipherability; allowing people to attach their own interpretation and meaning to what is going on. And like Campbell’s work, our stuff generally comes alive through movement.
The second idea was more of a search; looking for ways to produce real 3D visuals. We’ve done the stereo glasses in several projects -Come Closer, Dandelions and Driftnet and they work well; giving an illusion of depth that definitely helps the immersion/losing it feeling we’re looking for. We’ve used autostereoscopic screens they use a similar technique to 3D postcards and that too is effective to a point. What they don’t do is accurately overlay a virtual layer into physical space: visuals presented in this way don’t occupy a physical location. This grid of LEDs occupies physical space; it’s not visual trickery though it is very low resolution.
We have worked with 3D LED grids before in our Stealth and Discontinuum projects, using NOVA, a beautiful 3D LED grid produced by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. But for Ocean of Light, we were seeking a more environment-like experience, allowing people to enter a visual space, rather than viewing an object from outside.
In fact the idea of using a 3D grid of lights to make visualisations is not new. There are any number out there – search for LED cube on Youtube and you’ll see but the potency is in the detail. We’ve been researching the visual possibilites of such grids: what kind of techniques are most effective at suggesting movement, presence, energy this piece is really a practical result of that research.
The piece is actually called Ocean of Light: Surface, and it is a dynamic environment that is connected in many ways to the physical space it inhabits. The piece consists of a surface and several abstract creatures. The creatures are autonomous agents that navigate through the space and the surface. The surface is like the boundary between two virtual fluids. It is affected by sound: ambient noise and even shouting at the virtual space creates waves that travel across the surface. The environment is also somewhat unstable, occasionally triggering off firework-like reactions as the creatures swim past or if things are particularly turbulent (i.e. noisy). So there is a whole abstract ecosystem in there, where everything is vaguely connected and aware of everything else including the physical space and the real people that interact with the piece.
However, the overall experience we are looking for is, at another level, exactly what you described; to use this odd new hybrid medium to create a kind of mesmerising, absorbing landscape that draws you in and beguiles you.There’s more details on the Ocean of Light project at oceanoflight.net and on our other projects at squidsoup.org
We used autostereoscopic screens  (surfaces that use a technique similar to 3D postcards), but these instruments cannot accurately superimpose a virtual layer with a real space. Our LED grid on the other hand is inserted perfectly into the physical space: it is not an optical effect, even if it’s at a very low resolution. .
We had already worked with a 3D grid in the Stealth and Discontinuum projects, using NOVA, a wonderful LED 3D grid produced at the federal institute of technology in Switzerland. But for Ocean of Light, we were looking for an experience that would create an environment, something that would allow people to enter into a visual space, rather than see an object projected from the outside.
After all the idea of using a 3D light grid to create visualisations is not new. There are countless examples that you can find but just looking for “LED cube” on Youtube. However the power lies in the detail. We researched the different visual possibilities: which techniques are more efficient in order to suggest movement, presence, energy, so our work is the practical result of this research. The piece is really called Ocean of Light: Surface, and it’s a dynamic environment that is connected in many ways to the physical space that it is in. It consists of a surface and numerous abstract creatures. The creatures are autonomous agents that navigate through the space and the surface. The surface is like a boundary between two virtual fluids.
Ocean of Light is influenced by sound: the noise of the environment and even shouting in the virtual environment creates waves that travel along the surface. The environment is something that is unstable and that, occasionally, triggers reactions like fireworks, as soon as the creatures move. In every point an entire abstract ecosystem can potentially be created, where everything is vaguely connected and aware of the rest, including the physical space and the real people who interact with the installation.
3 – An interview to Jason Bruges Studio
Alessandra Migani: Jason, I really enjoyed your interactive installation at Kinetica Art Fair. I felt, let’s say, welcomed by your blinking eyes and miniature screens. Could you introduce me to your studio and the work you unveiled at the fair?
Jason Bruges: Jason Bruges Studio was created by Jason Bruges in 2002 and has since grown to around 16 people with backgrounds in Architecture, Lighting Design, Product Design, Interaction Design and Project Management to design beautiful site specific solutions. The studio delivers iconic public realm artwork and realises work that is site specific, technologically advanced, historically sensitive and augments the environment with a beauty of which the observer will be in awe.
We unveiled two pieces for Kinetica; Reflex Portraits, a series of 6 unique animated digital portraits is exploring reactions. The series is a development of the studio’s Mirror, Mirror piece, currently being exhibited at the V&A Museum . The pieces explore digital narcissism and the work is as much about how people respond to the piece as the canvases themselves.
Our second piece, Screen Cloud, is a perfect example of the studio’s ongoing exploration into visualising the invisible. In this case the unseen elements are the soft air currents moving in and around the piece. This installation comprises 30 miniature screens arrayed across a mobile structure, in a direct homage to the work of Calder. Each screen exhibits proprioception. knowledge of its location in relation to the rest of the assembly, arising from sensors within the work itself. The screens display an animated response to the unconscious perception of their spatial orientation
Alessandra Migani:Most of your interactive installations explore the relationship between digital and physical reaction, between the space and the surface trying to visualize the invisible. Where do you get your inspiration?
Jason Bruges: Inspiration comes from an infinite variety of sources: kinetic artists, scientists and a diverse range of designers. Points of reference include Austrian artist Bernhard Leitner, contemporary artist Christian Moeller, the likes of Moholy-Nagy and Iannis Xenakis, Le Corbusier’s young assistant through to the film Blade Runner.
Alessandra Migani: One of your latest projects, Panda eyes, is currently displayed at the Design Museum as part of the Brit Insurance Designs of the Year 2010 Exhibition. Could you tell me more about this work?
Jason Bruges: Originally commissioned by the WWF as part of Pandemonium and auctioned by Christie’s, Jason Bruges Studio created a 2m x 2m plinth based artwork consisting of 100 rotating captive pandas. Arrayed in a 10 x 10 configuration, they detect a viewer’s presence, and unanimously track human movement. Rotating towards the viewer, their confrontational stare is slightly un-nerving and urges viewers to consider their impact upon the environment.
In an abstract way of engaging public thought, the pandas are controlled by servo motors, which rotate at precise increments. Linked to an ARM microprocessor, their position changes according to a live image feed from a thermal camera, mounted overhead. Jason Bruges Studio keenly supports the work and intentions of WWF, specifically in relation to environmental science and technological innovation.
The studio is continually progressing the development of sustainable art and design through its research in the conversion of wind power to light. Using the WWF’s world famous panda emblem has given Jason Bruges Studio a platform through which to join the organisation in delivering its important message. The piece has been nominated by Ross Phillips to win the Brit Insurance Award 2010 and is now visible at the Design Museum.
4 – An interview to ArtHertz
Alessandra Migani: Dennis, could you tell us a bit more about your organisation and what was your urge when you started ArtHertz?
Dennis Da Silva: ArtHertz was set up in 2006 to work with contemporary art and music events as well as large-scale video projection staged in unconventional spaces usually of historical and architectural importance Fulham Palace (former residence of Bishops of London), Durham Castle and now Battersea Power Station. We also play an important part in the Rushes Soho Shorts Festival which has become a leading international platform for the short film format.
Over the last two years we have previewed new work by electronic music pioneer John Foxx during the festival and special screenings including work by Alex Proyas, (director of I Robot, Knowing), Ian Emes (Director of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon) and Japanese film and anime director, Macoto Tezka. Our last exhibition DNA (July 2009) also included Gary Numan’s first synth and two digital prints by Nick Rhodes.
The show also featured some new ‘kinetic’ work by ongoing ArtHertz collaborators Adrian Lee and Andrew Back. Myself and creative director Beverley Bennett share a passion for throwing ourselves into uncharted territory exploring new possibilities in cross-media. We’re a small organisation with a big mind space..
Alessandra Migani:When I met you at Kinetica Art Fair you were presenting a preview of what it sounds already a not to be missed live event/exhibition, Electricity and Ghosts, scheduled for June 2010 at the Battersea Power Station. Can you give us more details about this project?
Dennis Da Silva: Electricity and Ghosts is a group storytelling project centred upon the iconic Battersea Power Station. The event will happen in two parts: a spectacular live event in June located at the Power Station involving large scale, multi screen video projections with musical performances and live visuals by the Orb, Bishi, John Foxx, and Spacedog and a two week long exhibition located in the local borough of Wandsworth working around themes of electricity, power, sustainability and memory.
It is our most ambitious projects to date and also our most important from a local, national and historical perspective. It presents a last chance opportunity to pay tribute to one of the most important London landmarks and early facilities for the mass generation of electricity prior to the site’s imminent redevelopment – a kind of swansong of coal.
The event also includes a new film, Volt Electra an homage to Frankenstein by Ian Emes to be accompanied by a stirring soundtrack with multi screen projections and also work by the Scottish photographer, Alex Boyd in partnership with long term David Bowie collaborator and pianist, Mike Garson. Kinetica 2010 was a snapshot preview of two new Battersea pieces, one of which (Lumen Spiritus Sancti by Andrew Back) was the results of a séance held in the control room of the Power Station last December 2009!
Alessandra Migani: One of your artists at the fair, Sarah Angliss presented a mixed media work with automatic bells, entitled Ealing Feeder. At first glance her work made me think of the ‘noise machines’ (Intonarumori) created by the Futurist artist, Luigi Russolo in 1913. I could be completely wrong, but I have the feeling that your events and artists share a fascination for history and old machines. Is that true? How the 20th Century noise-makers enter into the 21st Century?
Dennis Da Silva: Sarah is an admirer of Russolo and there are some similarities with her pieces. I admire the old-school physicality she brings to her performances without throwing away the high tech as in Ealing Feeder which really gets under your skin. The poem around the edge of the work was written in 1930 by a woman who was intoxicated by the idea of the electric servant. She soothed her baby to sleep by passing an electric current through it. The bell rig is a throwback (technologically), it looks unfamiliar and perhaps a little eerie, to modern viewers.
Sarah’s performances often incorporates theremin, robotics as well as the bell rig you saw on the stand whilst Andrew Back’s work (Lumen Spiritus Sancti) maps new ideas onto old technology an incandescent lamp for transmitting sound captured in the control room of an early facility for large scale power generation. The technology approaches taken are not simply about aesthetics, and where possible employ techniques that were actually put to use in the past, or could have been in an alternative past, i.e. the technology of the period referenced was suitably advanced. It is important to note, however, that this is not a fantasy conflation of past and present which leads to improbably technology, as with Steampunk etc.
 Definition on wikipedia wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autostereoscopy
NdA. The Victoria and Albert Museum in South Kensington is the most important museum in the world for the fields of art and design, which includes an unparalleled collection for its size and variety.
From the medical dictionary a kind of sensation which depends on the perception of the position of the body in space. This depends on the activity of certain nervous receptors (proprioceptors) situated in the muscles, in tendons, and joints.
See the definition on wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ARM_architecture