It is an odd thing to note about a museum exhibit intended for viewing, and yet, Jean Tinguely: Machinespektakel at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam was well worth listening to.
Resting somewhere between banal and brilliant, Tinguely's Dadaist 'metamechanics' purred, clanked, whizzed, coughed and rattled in response to the viewer's prompts, filling the sanitized museum space with levels of sound, collaboration, and excitement not often experienced at the the best of shows. Which, perhaps, was always the performative, Tinguely way.
As kinetic machines that occasionally created art (and stood as sculptural works of art in and of themselves) each Tinguely piece was devoid of the usual, visually pleasing overtures of clarity in terms of form, colour, and purpose. Instead, one was greeted with an almost jarring, stripped-down presentation of roughly-hewn metals and mixed materials across a range of life-sized - or room sized - moving sculptures, art-machines, installation-type pieces and the like.
The effect was all-encompassing, and like the many children in awe of the exhibition, most adults found themselves interacting directly with the works in ways one would never dream of. In some rooms, the impulse to touch each piece, just to see if it would indeed move, was too much to resist; the Stedelijk made good use of this by installing push buttons to operate a selection of sculptures on timed loops.
As mesmerizing as the larger moving pieces were, a small section of abstract-modernist wall hangs stood quietly on their own as intriguing examples of Tinguely's core ability and genius, defying any thought that the Swiss-born artist was nothing more than a brash creator of crowd-pleasing spectacles.
See more outtakes from the recently concluded exhibit, below.
Words & Images | Lisa-Marie Harris
Jean Tinguely: Machinespektakel
Oct 1st 2016 to March 5th 2017
Stedelijk museum, Amsterdam