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Notes on Kinetic Sculpture

During the last few years, I have been searching for information on the origins of interactive/cybernetic/robotic/living sculpture. I've found a number of interesting sources published in the 1960s during an active period of kinetic and machine art, but after this short time, work in kinetic sculpture seems to virtually stop for about fifteen years. In the past decade, conceptual and technical innovations within the robotics and electronics community have opened up new possibilities for kinetic sculpture. A contemporary group of artists are creating work where the focus is not on the movement of the sculpture but on it's behavior -- how it reacts and actively responds to its dynamic environment.

These pages present raw notes from my exploration into this history. They are presented as is and may contain grammatical and spelling errors due to quick typing. Comments and questions are welcome and may be addressed to: reas at groupc dot net


Kinetic Sculptors

Naum Gabo b.1890
Laszlo Moholy-Nagy b.1895
Marcel Duchamp b.1887
Alexander Calder b.1898
Nicolas Schöffer b.1912
Pol Bury b.1922
Jean Tinguely b.1925
Yaacov Agam b.1928
Wen-Ying Tsai b.1928
James Seawright b.1922
Takis Vassilakis b.1925
Hans Haacke b.1936
Dennis Oppenheim b.1938
Charles Ray b.1953
Alan Rath b.1959
Rebecca Horn
Simon Penny
Ken Rinaldo
Tim Hawkinson


Rosalind Krauss
Jack Burnham
Force Fields


General notes
Jacques Vaucanson b.1709
Pierre Jacquet-Droz b.1721

Cybernetics & Robotics

Norbert Wiener
Ross W. Ashby
Valentino Braitenberg
John Haugeland
Ronald C. Arkin
Hans Moravec

The references presented below range from short articles to books representing years of research. Most references address the topic of kinetic sculpture, but there are a few references on automata, cybernetics, and robotics. I found the references with their numbers in italics to be the most useful.

  [01] Anderson, Wayne. Takis, Evidence of the Unseen. MIT Press. Cambridge, MA. 1969.  
  [02] Arkin, Ronald C. Behavior-Based Robotics. MIT Press. Cambridge, MA. 1998
Overview of philosophy and architecture of behavioral robotic systems.
  [03] Ashby, Ross W. Design for a Brain. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. London. 1960  
  [04] Braitenberg, Valentino. Vehicles, Experiments in Synthetic Psychology. MIT Press. Cambridge, MA. 1984  
  [05] Brett, Guy. Kinetic Art, The Language of Movement. Studio-Vista, London. 1968  
  [06] Brooks, Rodney A. Cambrian Intelligence, The Early History of the New AI. The MIT Press. Cambridge, MA. 1999  
  [07] Burnham, Jack. Beyond Modern Sculpture. George Braziller, 1967  
  [08] Chapuis, Alfred and Edmond Droz. Translated by Alec Reid. Automata, A Historical and Technological Study. Editions du Griffon. Neuchatel, Switzerland. 1958
Thorough chronology of automata from pre-history – 1950s.
  [09] Borja-Villel, Manuel J. et al. Force Fields: Phases of the Kinetic. Museu d’Art Contemporani. Barcelona. 2000
Catalog of an exhibition held at Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA), Apr. 19-June 18, 2000, and at Hayward Gallery, London July 13-Sep. 17, 2000. A new reading of art 1920-1970, a re-assessment of kinetic art.
  [10] Bordier, Roger et al. The Movement: Agam, Bury, Calder, Duchamp, Jacobsen, Soto, Tinguely, Vasarely. Editions Galerie Denise René, Paris. 1975
Twenty year retrospective on the influential show, Le Mouvement, at Galerie Denise René in Paris, April 1955.
  [11] Crosby, Theo. Kinetics. Lund Humpries. London. 1970
Catalogue of an exhibition held at Hayward Gallery, London, 25 September to 22 November, 1970.
  [12] Heiss, Alanna. Dennis Oppenheim, Selected Works 1967-90. Harry N. Abrams. New York. 1992  
  [13] Hulten, Pontus. Jean Tinguely, A Magic Stronger than Death. Abbeville Press, New York, NY. 1987
Retrospective of Tinguely’s work, fantastic photographs.
  [14] Hulten, Pontus. The Machine, As Seen at the End of Mechanical Age. New York Graphic Society, Greenwich, Connecticut. 1968
Catalogue of an exhibition to be held at the Museum of Modern Art, Nov. 25, 1968-Feb. 9, 1969
  [15] Krauss, Rosalind E. Passages in Modern Sculpture. The MIT Press. Cambridge, MA. 1997
Insightful collection of essays on 20th century Sculpture.
  [16] Malina, Frank J., ed. Kinetic Art: Theory and Practice, Selections from the Journal Leonardo. Dover Publications, Inc. New York, NY. 1974
Reprint of articles written by kinetic artists, originally published in journal Leonardo.
  [17] Moholy-Nagy, Laszlo. Vision In Motion. Paul Theobald, Chicago. 1947 Visionary self-authored retrospective.  
  [18] Moravec, Hans. “The Universal Robot.” In Arts Electronica, Facing the Future. MIT Press, Cambridge. 1999  
  [19] Nash, Steven A. and Merkert, Jorn. Naum Gabo, Sixty Years of Constructivism. Prestel-Verlag, Munich. 1985  
  [20] Papaikonomou, Evangelos. Biocybernetics, Biosystems Analysis, and the Pituitary Adrenal System. Nooy’s Drukkerij. Amsterdam. 1974  
  [21] Penny, Simon. “Why do we want our machines to seem alive?” Scientific American. September 1995  
  [22] Penny, Simon. “Systems Aesthetics and Cyborg Art: The Legacy of Jack Burnham.” Published in Sculpture, Vol.8 #1. January/February 1999  
  [23] Popper, Frank. Origins and Development of Kinetic Art. New York Graphic Society, Greenwich, Connecticut. 1968.
  [24] Popper, Frank. Art of the Electronic Age. Harry N. Abrams, New York. 1993  
  [25] Rath, Alan. Robotics. Smart Art Press, Santa Fe. 1999.
Catalog of an exhibition held at Site Santa Fe, Oct. 31, 1998-Jan. 24, 1999
  [26] Ray, Charles. Charles Ray. Scalo, Los Angeles. 1998
Catalog of an exhibition held at the Museum of Contemporary Art in 1998.
  [27] Read, Herbert. “Constructivism: the Art of Naum Gabo and Antoine Pevsner.”
Published in Five European Sculptors. Arno Press. New York. 1969
  [28] Reichardt, Jasia. Cybernetic Serendipity, The Computer and the Visual Arts. Frederick A. Prager, 1969
Exhibition catalog from influential 1968 exhibit at the ICA, London.
  [29] Sanouillet, Michel and Elmer Peterson. The Writings of Marcel Duchamp. Da Capo Press, New York. 1989  
  [30] Selz, Peter. Directions in Kinetic Sculpture. University of California. Berkeley, CA. 1966.
Catalogue of an exhibition held at University Art Gallery, Berkeley.
  [31] Schöffer, Nicolas and Jean Tinguely. 2 Kinetic Sculptors, Nicolas Schöffer and Jean Tinguely. The Jewish Museum. New York, NY. 1965  
  [32] Walter, W. Grey. “An Imitation of Life.” Scientific American, p42-45. May 1950  
  [33] Wiener, Norbert. Cybernetics, or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine. MIT Press. Cambridge, MA. 1948  


© 2002, 2001 | Casey Reas