The Aesthetic and the Mechanics
"For me, the machine is above all an instrument that permits me to be poetic. If you respect the machine, if you enter into a game with the machine, then perhaps you can make a joyous machine-by Joyous, I mean, free. "
(Jean Tinguely, 1965)
In the glossary of art terms and concepts, the term 'kinetic art' (from the Greek word 'kinesis' or 'kinetikos', which means 'motion') is used to describe the works associated with movement or motion in their various forms. Since its emergence in the early twentieth century, the spectrum of kinetic art practice days has surpassed the definition of works with certain techniques and styles. In general, the spectrum is associated with the development of the artist’s perspective, responsiveness and understanding of the concept and the phenomenon of 'motion'.
In Indonesia, the term kinetic art is not so popular. Although various aspects of 'motion' can be found in manyIndonesianartists’works -particularly in the works that have been popularly known as' installation'-so far I have not found any research, exhibition or discourse that specifically discuss this. In fact, Indonesianartists’interest in working on various aspects of 'motion' is very noteworthy to study. In addition, as a trend, or even an 'ism', kinetic art offers artistic exploration and broad philosophical potentials, and may represent a particular cultural situation in Indonesia.
The Motion/Sensation exhibition was initiated with the aim of tracking the various ideas and forms of 'motion' in the works of Indonesian artists, and displaying it as a small section of kinetic art development in Indonesia. In addition to driven by the need to see new experimentations, this exhibition is a pioneering attempt to examine the kinetic art as a medium. We know, since the 1990s there have been many exhibitions that questioned the 'new mediums' such as performance art, video art and installations. In the last ten years, countless number of exhibitions also question the medium of fine art, especially painting, sculpture and graphic arts, with many new definitions and the reconceptualization. However, in that particular span of time the discussion about kinetic art in Indonesia could hardly be found.
In the books that talk about the history of kinetic art, one of the classical debates about the scope of kinetic art is always associated with the meaning of 'motion' in relation to human perception. This is not a trivial issue. We know in the discourses and practices of art during the last three decades the difference between the real and the virtual is often philosophically obscured. Today, the issue of 'motion' is becoming more complicated because it intersects digital culture. New media technologies and the culture coming out of them have shifted our comprehension of 'truth' and the existence of an object: what is formerly considered 'cyberspace' now has an equal status with the 'real'.
To overcome the complexity of the above, the definition of kinetic art in Indonesia must still be linked to art history. Historically, kinetic art and kineticism in the West was born out of an urge to understand 'actual movement' as a breakthrough in the art of sculpture. Pioneered by the avant-gardists like Marcel Duchamp and Laszlo Moholy-Nagy inearly 20th century, the development of kinetic art was preceded by a desire to display the motion as an attempt of dematerialization. As it developed, the actual motion is diametrically divided by 'represented movement’ put forth by Futurism artists. 'Kinetic' in this sense relates to material displacement in a physical space, as understood in science.
In Europe and America, the kinetic art achieved one of the important phases in the 1960s, along with the cultural development of post-World War II. Kinetic art became synonymous with the artists’artistic response to rationality, science and technology, which were considered also contributed to the destruction. At the same time, artists such as Jean Tinguely began perverting from technology and machinery, turning them into an artistic composition that is free from functions and conventional mechanical rules. Kinetic art was then identical to the machine estheticizing. Narrative history of kinetic art in the West can still extend to the new developments in the 1980s when computerization and digitalization began reaching artistic practice. The practice of kinetic art today has evolved along with robotic technology and artificialintelligence. The sophistication is supported by the collaboration among art, science and technology.
The Motion/Sensation exhibition offers a genealogy of kinetic art in Indonesia by setting up the 1990s as a milestone. However, it should be emphasized that the 1990s was not the first era of kinetic art in Indonesia. I am sure that the various artistic experimentations in academic context have actually pioneered the practice of kinetic art (particularly in the curriculum of sculpture studio). The 1990s was the emergence of artistic excitement and incredible new spirit to break free from the confines of the medium, idioms and artistic styles that were previously dominant. With the popularity of installation and performance idiomsthe actual motion elements appear in a different artistic sensibility, mainly through contact with cultural traditions such as performing arts (especially theater and puppets), traditional artifacts, and everyday objects. We can classify the artists of the 1990s such as Heri Dono, Agus Suwage, Mella Jaarsma and Hardiman Radjab as included in this generation.
In early 2000s, a few younger artists began to appear such as Deden Sambas,Jompet Kuswidananto and Handiwirman Saputra, who began exploring motion with different artistic sensibilities. Deden was fascinated by his findings in simple day-to-daytechnology. Jompet initiated his kinetic art projects with the involvement of performance art, music and sounds. While Handiwirmanwas interested to process motion due to the resulting visual impacts on the 'rubbish' materials such as cotton, plastic and hair.
In addition to marking the territories of ideas that dominantlyrepresent kinetic art practice from early 1990s until early 2000s, this exhibition is also featuring new works that demonstrate the latest developments of this art in Indonesia. The presence of BagusPandegaand Rudi Hendriatno in this regard represents a new generation of artists who for the last few years have been intensely exploring themotion aspects in their works. In addition, this exhibition invites artists including Ade Darmawan. Wiyoga Muhardanto, Octora, Lie Fhung, Septian Harriyoga, Yuli Prayitno andYani Mariani, who previously worked more on three-dimensional static works, but have a keen interest in cultivating motion potentials. Another case is the presence of ER’s works in this exhibition, it shows how the spectrum of kinetic art practice in Indonesia can also open up the possibility of interesting collaboration between art and technology.
Kinetic art should not merely be understood as an umbrella term for a technical trend. It is an aesthetic category. It is quite obvious in this exhibition how motion aspects are utilized in different ways. It can be as a sharp metaphor of a narrative, an impact of certain mechanical systems, as well as independent artistic motives. More fundamentally, it is important to understand how our interest in motion essentially represents human’s most natural natures. Sculptor Lucio Fontana once declared the most principled methodology of kinetic art: "Our intention is to unite entire life of man in a synthesis which linked to the function of natural conditions, constitutes a true manifestation of his being… Sensation was everything with the primitive man; sensation in the face of misunderstood nature, musical sensations, rhythmic sensations. It is our intention to develop this original condition of man. "