35.5 x 21.3 x 25.4 cm
Painted feather, foam, powder-coated metal sheet, motor, wire
Collection Museum Haus Konstruktiv
Donated by Sammlung Rolf und Friedel Gutmann
Jean Tinguely (born 1925 in Fribourg, Switzerland, died 1991 in Bern, Switzerland) was a pioneer of Kinetic Art. His humorous tongue-in-cheek machine sculptures have become fixtures in European and American art history.
Tinguely trained to become a decorator and attended courses at the Allgemeine Gewerbeschule in Basel in the 1940s before beginning his career as a free-lance artist. He moved to Paris in 1952, and only three years later, he was invited by the gallerist Denise René to participate in the thematic exhibition “Le Mouvement.” This legendary show, in which Tinguely was joined by artists like Alexander Calder, Marcel Duchamp, Pol Bury, Jesús Rafael Soto, and Yaacov Agam, is regarded in art history as the beginning of Kinetic Art, initiating a boom that lasted until the late 1960s. In Kinetic Art, objects and installations are either mobile or they create the impression of movement (with the help of optical effects). While artworks focusing on the theme of movement had already existed – the Futurists especially had devoted themselves to this subject with fervor – what was new was that movement was no longer represented using painterly or sculptural means, but could be perceived in the artwork itself.
Tinguely represented a unique position in this new movement: His motorized sculptures resembled machines, but they did not produce anything. The drawing machines he began designing in 1955 were an exception, however. These drew lines and dots on the paper in quick, jerky movements that ironized the glorified creative artistic act.
Tinguely also stressed the performative aspect of his works in spectacular happenings. In 1960, for example, he installed a machine in the garden of the Museum of Modern Art in New York that was designed to self-destruct. In the same year, he founded the group Nouveau Réalisme together with other artists – including Arman, Yves Klein, and Daniel Spoerri – to promote the anti-elitist idea of integrating art into everyday life. He produced the artist’s multiple “Constante” for the Edition MAT (Multiplication d’Art Transformable), which was founded by his friend Spoerri in 1959. When the motor is switched on, the feather begins to rotate at such a high speed that its form seems to dissolve, thus playing with our perception in a manner typical for Kinetic Art.