Yesterday I visited the Kinetica Art Fair, hosted at the P3 Gallery at the University of Westminster. You walk through a dark hallway that opens up into a large, cavernous space, full of objects that might be whizzing around or blinking or making funny noises or responding to you as you walk by. This is a place where the art moves, reacts to you, or makes you react in weird and wonderful ways. The Kinetica Art Fair brings together artists and galleries specializing in new media, kinetic, electronic, light, sound and science art. The result was a bit Steampunk meets the Space Age, highly interactive and a lot of fun. For a quick view, take a look at the a BBC video of the extravaganza here.
A few of my personal highlights:
Cabaret Mechanical Theatre is a bit out of the official scope for this blog, but I loved it. They make little moving dioramas, small machines that operated by hand crank, told a story. My favourite automata was a box by artist Paul Spoon called The Dream. A man is sleeping and all sorts of creatures pop out of cupboards, windows, disturbing him. It’s a bit surreal, a bit spooky, and very funny.
These fantastic little boxes reminded me of a Jan Švankmajer film, but in slightly jerky mechanical form… or something out of the film, The Science of Sleep. Magic.
Fantastical mechanical creatures were presented by Christian Zwanikken. Imagine something with the head of a bird and a metal body walking around, fighting another in an epic battle of the mechanical vs. the natural world. The sheer strangeness of these dinosaurs trapped within mechanical bodies veering towards one another and then away was quite funny, but also made me think about the ways that we shape and control nature to our own needs and desires.
“The Particle” by Alex Posada gained applause from the audience that viewed the performance of this spinning sphere of lights. As the lighted sculpture spun, a glowing orb was generated, deconstructed, sliced apart into its constituent elements, responding to the movements and activity in the surrounding space. As a geologist, my mind immediately leapt to a spinning planet, the skin removed and then gradually re-assembled from the core to the crust. Take a look at the video above to get a small taste of what this was like.
Point of Perception by Madi Boyd is a collaborative work with neuroscientists at UCL about the ambiguity of perception. Staring at what seems like an infinite depth of space, you become more aware of the fact that you are observing something that you aren’t actually at all sure that you are seeing. She combines built environments and projection systems to play with what you are actually seeing. I particularly appreciate this work because it isn’t too heavy-handed, either from the perspective of the art or the science.
I was delighted to discover that London has a gallery that focusses on art and science. GV Art came to my attention due to the “brainstorm in a teacup” about their recent show on artists exploring the brain, which featured real tissue samples from the brain affected by Multiple Sclerosis. Despite some derogatory comments by a conservative MP, the show was quite well received on the whole– especially from the medical community and by patients suffering from debilitating brain diseases. More information about that particular show can be found here. I will definitely be heading there to see some of their upcoming shows, many of which feature artists working with science, science images as art, and artists inspired by science.
Finally, from a standpoint of personal inspiration, I appreciated the work of Jasmine Pradissitto. An ex physicist with a PhD from UCL, who went on to art school, she makes whizzy paintings based on various physical principles. To be honest, I found them a little too aesthetically lovely… but I did give me some much needed inspiration that “I can do this too!”
So, to conclude. What did I learn from the Kinetica Art Fair? That there is a lot of very interesting art being made with both old and new technology. That a small, but energetic community is making fantastic art using science and inspired by science. This art is fun, dynamic and interactive and capable of bridging what some see as an impassible gap between Science and Art.