Ambika P3 is an incredible space, and with the lights low and with Kinetica in it Ambika feels half-Matrix-inspired party and half-Diagon Alley. The 14,000 sq ft space once used to test industrial concrete is split into booths, all of which contain wonders, and the excitement of wandering between them is in the suspense generated by the knowledge you could encounter anything around the next corner. The overriding feeling is that of a trade show for plot devices to put in fantasy novels, and as such it is entirely wonderful.
The Daily Telegraph has said that Kinetica is ‘comparable to the great international exhibitions of the Victorian era’, and that is exactly right: Kinetica is the nearest thing we have to the Victorian Great Exhibition. The Great Exhibition had a barometer using leeches (the Tempest prognosticator), the world’s largest diamond, a steam-powered hammer, adding machines, and an 80-blade knife. Kinetica 2013 has a robotically re-animated boar’s skull, a pair of big rubber hands that clap when clapped to, a galloping horse with no body, and a pair of sound-sensitive dresses. So while billed as an art fair – Prosecco and all – there is a real un-stuffiness to the place as wonder and play dominate the pretence of art-world cool.
Writing about Kinetica is difficult, because there is no precedent for any of the objects in it. The best thing is probably to give a run-down of some of the pieces in it, not by way of review, but by way of raw information that should send you on your way there.
Laurent’s stand is the first you see as you come down the stairs onto the exhibition hall. Suspended above is La mare aux fees (2012), consisting of a tree branch cut into sections and hung from a series of revolving disks so as to make the parts of the branches hang in space, with space between each part. Some branch-parts move anti-clockwise and some clockwise. At a certain point, the branch-parts synchronise to make the shape of a branch, at all the other points in the rotation they float free, as twigs in space. It does, I suppose, recall Giuseppe Penone’s Spazio di Luce, currently in the Whitechapel Gallery, where the bark of a tree is cast in bronze with the trunk hollowed out, but I find Laurent Debraux’s sculpture the more potent with its scatting then re-synthesising of parts to make a recognisable form. Penone’s tree is still – it’s space is more about God as light and space in an abstract sense – but with its movement Debraux’s branch can show us the moment of creation itself, and how unlikely it is.
Wu Xiao Fei Dyson
Wu Xiao Fei brings his “Mechanical Instrument” to Kinetica this year. It consists of a typewriter, whose mechanism is attached to a series of fishing lines that spread all over the room. These wires are all linked to little hammers, and when their key is pressed, the hammers strike all manner of things to produce different sounds: empty jars of pasta sauce, cans, bottles, foil. There aren’t any scales or arpeggios, the excitement is in the inherent unpredictability of the contraption. It is impossible to guess which key is linked to which hammer, so something as mundane and everyday as a qwerty keyboard becomes incredibly unpredictable as to its output. It’s unpredictability is reinforced by the contraption’s homemade look, and it belongs in the home of an eccentric wizard.
Sharisharishari + Takumi Matsuo
This work is a model of a tea room, used in the traditional Japanese tea ceremony. Like a temple’s tea room, it has a Nigiriguchi – a ‘crawling entrance’ – at ground level, that ‘symbolically separates the small, simple, quiet inside from the crowded outside world.’ It belongs in Kinetica because of some innovations to the traditional tea room. Beneath the floor are pressure sensors, that respond to the movement of the person inside the room. The function of these sensors is to transmit the position of the occupant to the roof – formed of diaphanous material in a pattern of tetrahedral shapes and attached to a lattice. The lattice then contracts or expands, intelligently altering the light conditions in the room corresponding to the position of the user – the idea being to ensure through technology that the light is always harmonious and favourable to the inhabitant of the sanctuary of the tea room. It is a very appealing idea, and a beautiful way of using technology for human rather than practical or industrial purposes. Machinery and technology are ways of taking control of the environment, but it is wonderful to think that as well as using it to make more objects per second in a factory, or drill oil faster, it can also be applied to ensure a constant, sensitive, Impressionist glow to humane surroundings.
There is a slight bias towards running horses as a theme in Kinetica, probably in tribute and reference to Muybridge. However, rather than taking Muybridge as an early director/cameraman –as he commonly is – the artists at Kinetica generally take him back to first principles. Muybridge used fourty cameras, taking one frame each, which captured the difference in position of the parts of a horse as it went through the motions of galloping. The illusion of movement, therefore, is actually in the rhythmical oscillations of different parts of a horse – a horse’s knee for example moves in a kind of oval. What Brun has done is to rig up a series of lights that chart the movement of the horse’s knees, hooves, shoulders and head, and have the lights trace these point’s individual positions. What we end up with is the instantly identifiable rhythm and pattern of a horse’s gallop with absolutely no figurative representation of a horse at all. It is ‘movement as matter… No shape, no model, no texture, just movement with its own strength and beauty. It is the nearest thing to a spectre I have seen.
This piece is called Die Falle, and I don’t want to say much about it because it will ruin the surprise. It is tucked away in a dark room of its own, looks a bit like the Tempest prognosticator in its shape, and features the ascent of the soul out the ear of a skull, through a forward roll, into a ball, then up to bed. It is an animated sculpture using a strobe light. That is all I will say on the matter – you should never ruin a magician’s trick.
***** 5 Stars, of course.
Words by Jack Castle © Artlyst 2013