Kinetica Art Fair 2014 Review

Alex May, detail of video-mapping installation at Kinetica Art Fair 2014

Alex May, detail of video-mapping installation at Kinetica Art Fair 2014

Now in its sixth year, the Kinetica Art Fair (16th – 19th October 2014 at the Old Truman Brewery, Spitalfields, London ) has become an annual fixture in the London art scene. Organised by the Kinetica Museum which was founded and directed by artist Dianne Harris, the fair stands apart because of its particular remit, which is to showcase the work of those maverick artists who like to experiment with technology old and new, and create immersive and often interactive experiences for the viewer. In a statement released for the 2012 Kinetica fair:

“… The interconnection between art and science has been around for a long time, Kinetica is dedicated to the historical and contemporary importance of these themes ……. Kinetica is interested in the movement of our times, in presenting works that are in essence  a statement of our evolution, where we have come from, where we are now and where we are being propelled….”

Alex May's installation

Alex May’s Kinetica 2014 installation

My involvement with the fair this year was as assistant to artist Alex May, who specializes in  innovative digital experiments with projection mapping. With a background in digital coding, May has created an intuitive bespoke software that enables a great deal of manipulation of the projected image. The site-specific Kinetica installation showcased some of the underlying principles of May’s work, which explores “… the boundary between physical and digital, and how human perception has been altered through technology.” He explained that he consciously utilizes transient materials in the creation of the physical installations – in this case cardboard boxes, found objects, fly paper and soil samples – in order to provide a contrast to the slick artificiality of the digital images and video footage projected onto them. The result is something very intriguing on an earthy, human level, which invites you to look beyond mere marvel at technological wizardry.

An important historical context was provided in the fair with the inclusion of a collection of pioneering kinetic art produced between 1948 and 1979, presented by Austin Desmond Fine Art. It was rather thrilling to see a small rusted early sculpture by Jean Tinguely, and in general to absorb the classical modernist simplicity of 1960s aesthetics.

Francisco Sobrino (Austin Desmonf Fine Art)

Francisco Sobrino (Austin Desmond Fine Art)

Jean Pierre Yvaral - detail (Austin Desmond Fine Art)

Jean Pierre Yvaral – detail (Austin Desmond Fine Art)

The juxtaposition of this collection with contemporary artists presented an interesting visual perspective – the contemporary artists, heirs to postmodernist eclecticism , are less rigid in their choice of influences and in the way they present their ideas. There is much re-working of nineteenth century and earlier technologies for example, and an unself-conscious mingling of imagery and experience.

Circus Kinetica

Circus Kinetica

One of the featured installations was a large iron and copper water-wheel, complete with tank, created by Circus Kinetica, a Brighton-based collective of artists who produce large performative machines powered by wind and water. In the fine tradition of quirky and useless machines, the waterwheel references the work of Jean Tinguely and utilizes medieval water-driven technology.

Rachael Linton in collaboration with Biointelligent

Rachael Linton in collaboration with Biointelligent

Another interesting and immersive installation was presented by Rachael Linton in collaboration with Biotelligent. It utilized sonic vibrations in water (‘cymatics‘) to project beautiful moving Chladni patterns (after the experiments with resonance of Ernst Chladni, 1756 – 1827) on to a circular mica painting. I learned from Rachael that she is a guilder and craftsperson, which is bourne out in the care and beauty evident in the details of the installation.

Ivan Black, 'Serpentine'

Ivan Black, ‘Serpentine’

I have presented but a taste of the sheer diversity of the kind of work one can expect to see at a Kinetica Art Fair – there were orreries, wave-machines, gear-driven clockwork mechanisms, holographs, phenakistoscopes, drawing-machines, light sculptures, sound sculptures, optical illusions, and much else, presenting a feast for the senses and the intellect.

I shall finish with Ivan Black‘s ‘Serpentine’ (left), a meticulously crafted demonstration of wave-functions which relies on the torsion movements of the central column.

Kinetica’s official statement includes the assertion that the technology and science driven genres of art that it promotes are

” … leading the way forward to the creation of a new movement in Art…”

Personally, I have an intuitive sense that this is indeed the case, and shall continue to be inspired by the development of the work of my peers, and by my own desire to explore the past, present and future of the technological world we have created for ourselves.