The Ancestral Path by Amorphic Robot Works
6 October – 14 November 2006
The artists within Kinetica’s inaugural show ‘Lifeforms’ contribute to the extension of the human into the mechanical, and the mechanical into the human by confirming the fallacy that humans are, or ever were, entirely divorced from our technological environment. Whether we bathe in the glow of the instruments, or are riveted by technology’s virtuosity, we should never forget that we are not machines, but that machines are us. To that extent they – and the art made with them – already constitute a living, moving, energetic form of life.
Robert Pepperell, Lifeforms leaflet
So this is what becomes of defunct markets, they find new uses as centers of culture and refinement.
The arcades of the Old Spitalfields Market have been transformed into more bars and faux-markets than you can shake a stick at, serving those who cannot drag themselves away from the area. And as the pièce de la résistance they now have culture served up in the form of the Kinetica Museum, presented as ‘the UK’s first museum dedicated to kinetic, electronic and experimental art.’
The museum is split over two large open plan floors. As part of the Museum’s inaugural show the ground floor is given over to a new performance piece by the group Amorphic Robot Works, featuring a group of ‘humanoid, hybrid and abstract’ assemblages of metal, rubber and electronics. Upstairs holds a collection of works by various artists using movement, light and sound.
Dante Leonelli, Neon Dome
The works varied from those that wore their technology on their sleeves, either hi-tech – Daniel Chadwick’s solar powered, Calder-like mobiles – or lo – Tim Lewis’s junkyard writing machines, to the more operationally discrete – Dante Leonelli’s neon and plastic domes and Hans Kotter’s strip of light.
To generalise, the range of works suggest how kinetic art has progressed from it’s canonisation as an art form in the ’60’s through to its present incarnation. The early works in the show, or the works by artists who originally came to prominence at that point display a characteristically minimal aesthetic, hiding the technologies involved behind clean exteriors and presenting an abstracted display of light or movement.
Among the contemporary artists in the show there seems to be a divide between those who look back to this tradition and those who consciously reject it. Tim Lewis, Chico Macmurtrie/Amorphic Robot Works show a distinct current of anthropomorphism as well as embracing the messiness of their raw materials, not shying away from revealing the workings of their constructions and certainly not tidying up the display to meet some standard of minimalism. On the other hand artists such as Daniel Chadwick, Chris Levine and Hans Kotter feature minimal or high-tech forms.
Chadwick creates Alexander Calder-like mobiles using solar panels to power tiny fans activating the movement of the piece, as well as sinuous lengths of twisting tube, again powered by solar panels on wings attached to the tubular sections, looking very like a model of a space-station. Kotter’s piece is made up of a strip of electroluminescent tape forming a pristine line of light dividing off one end of the gallery.
Dante Leonelli was my tutor at college and I worked with him on some of the neon dome pieces after I left so I have a particular attachment to them. The three pieces in this show looked stunning, there’s something about the sparklyness of the plastic, the sharp stretches of neon and the slow dimming and brightening of the light that really affects you if you can give it the time and attention. In the middle of a busy opening is not the best environment to appreciate them, but they still stood out for me.