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Features: Commentary


Kinetica Art Fair

Kinetica's artistic and technological feats wow and amaze.

Jim Bond

Jim Bond – Atomised 2005
Photo: John Coombes

You would be forgiven for assuming that a “convergence of kinetic, electronic, robotic, sound, light, time-based and multi-disciplinary new media art, science and technology” was more of a sci-fi convention than an interesting exhibition. Nevertheless, Kinetica Art Fair is celebrating its third year of success with an impressive selection of artwork.

Whilst walking through the fair, you realise that this is not a celebration of the machine that you are witnessing; it is more like the machine celebrating us. Take Laura Michaels and Karl R Kjelsrtup-Johnson’s ‘Skin Graph’: clothes cut by laser to the contours of an individual human body, your personal signature lovingly crafted by robotic arm.

You needn’t expect a lot of rambling speculation about what the world will be like when we are all cyborgs; a lot of the work on show provides a more subtle foil for organic life. Andrew Back’s ‘Time for tea’ is a vintage voltmeter that provides a live reading of the power deficit or surplus in the national grid, which as we all know, is determined by the amount of people making tea at any one time. Jerzy Kediora’s statues of balanced acrobats and ballerinas naturally sway and tremble on their wires; this chance reproduction of lifelike movement is deceptively realistic from afar.

Many artists use high-tech methods to depict life in motion. Davide Angheledu uses CGI models based on the structure of algae cells, exposes them to virtual external forces, and then carves the remaining shape with a laser from some kind of advanced polymer. The result, achieved through robotics and computing, is a beautiful simulation of the effect of time on life. With a similar technique, Raphael Perret sculpts the arcs and sweeps a dancer makes using computer modelling to track their movements; this radical explosion of arms, legs and swirls forms ‘Body Cloud’.

You realise that when something moves or balances in a certain way, or ‘breathes’ or ‘beats’, it creates an illusion of nature, and some of these creations appear to be quite observant of our peculiarities and mannerisms.

With so many space age curiosities floating round and quasi-autonomous computers second-guessing you at every turn, there is also conspicuous sponsorship from the technological and educational sectors. One exhibitor’s absurdly corporate branding caught my attention above the rest. Baileybots have branded their partition as though at an arms fair, and are displaying a life-sized model of a robotic hyena on wheels. The wheels turn out to be the only moving parts on the model - as a robot, it's as complex as a happy meal toy. It's creator, Marco Kruyt, stood proudly by, telling me that his hyenas are the height of technology and everyone is going to want one. Asked about his branding, Kruyt smiled and confessed that he is really a very successful engineer, not an artist, and that it was chance that his product fits in so well here. His business card is a laser-etched circuit board; the whole outfit is so silly, I began to see rather a good joke. “I’m obsessed by these robots, I love making them!” Kruyt raved on.

But Kinetica is not all about the wildly futuristic or marketable. The Cabaret Mechanical Theatre (including Paul Spooner, Arthur Ganson, Keith Newstead, Carlos Zapata, Fi Henshall and Pascale Michalski) have created some beautiful scenes animated by wooden wheels and cogs: with the appearance of relics from the Toy Museum, strangely sinister situations unfold in clunky, highly original lurches and jerks. The partnership of Nick Rothwell and Lewis Sykes raise another salute to the past: Monomatic recreate analogue mechanisms with digital technology. Their ‘Modular Music Box’ has the same mechanism as a clockwork music box but is built from electronic components. Tones are linked to switches triggered by a rotating plate with magnets instead of bumps. The idea is good, although the finished product is a little unimpressive.

Performance artist Stelarc is showing off the ear he has had grafted into his arm, and mentioned an upcoming project to have the internet fully incorporated into his body. The music/animation/performance group New Opera Hero showcase the amazing things you can do with a holographic screen, 3D glasses, UV active outfits, and a drum and bass beat. And there's so much else worthy of mention: sculptures made from the lightest solid ever created, a giant orb you can magically draw on, robotic peacocks, pictures of hyperspace, strobe animation...

Much of the work at Kinetica serves to highlight the quirks of our own being, the ways in which we move and think; it plays with our perceptions, and expectations of perception. It is not like a portrait gallery, or even a room full of still lifes - here humanoids and gadgets reach out to you and solicit your friendship. It is a show of obvious wonder and delight. See it while you still can.

4-6 Feb Kinetica Art Fair, Ambika P3, 35 Marylebone Rd (opposite Baker Street Tube), London, NW1 5LS. £12 / £10 pounds concessions

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Marco Kruyt – Hyena (2009)
Photo: Marco Kruyt



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