The idea of kinetic art is getting a bit of a workout at the moment. MIT Museum recently hosted “year of kinetic art, including “5000 Moving Parts,” a kinetic art exhibiton featuring large-scale works by Arthur Ganson, Anne Lilly, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer and John Douglas Powers. Plus the Kinetic Art Organization has published a digital “International Collection of Essays About Kinetic Art—2013—volume 1.” The two don’t overlap: The MIT show highlights a somewhat different segment of artists working with motion in sculpture, 4 names, some of whom owe more to Yves Tinguely and Calder’s Circus than Calder’s mobiles and George Rickey (the primary influences for many if not most of the artists in the KAO book.
The book is a sort of annual or catalogue, but covering more than a single exhibition, institution, or country (though this volume does have an emphasis on China, and there are Chinese and English editions of the book). There are 17 essays, an introduction, a description of the organization, and a page of links. Some of the essays deal with the field as a whole (particularly those by Michael Suh, Ralfonso Gschwend (also president of the KAO), and Angela Conner, and Guiyan He and others are personal statements by individual artists, from the U.S., China, India, the U.K., France, Switzerland, and Mexico, including Lin Emery and Rein Triefeldt, Le Ding and Yumin Jing, and a number of others. Debby Coles-Dobay also offers a public art administrator’s view of kinetic sculpture.
The book is an interesting window into the world of working kinetic artists as well as a glimpse of the importance of the organization. The diversity of the field is also evident, in wide ranging work linked only by the idea of motion, powered by water, wind, or interaction with the viewer (who may push the work literally or simply activate a change in light by moving past the work). The KAO book represents also a valuable use of new resources for organizations and publishers: The preface recognizes that even without paper and printing, a book takes a lot of work and coordination, but a digital book offers the possibility of easily accessible links and even animation, resources that are valuable for three-dimensional art but particularly applicable to kinetic art. It will be interesting to see how the KAO will move, with a “volume 2” into different countries, different phases of kineticism, and more of the lively and important artists such as those highlighted in this first volume.