50 x 25 x 25 cm
Metal, wood, magnets
Collection Museum Haus Konstruktiv
Donated by Das Progressive Museum Basel
Pyramide continue (positiv/négativ) [Continuous pyramid (positive/negative)]
According to the cultural historian Johan Huizinga, who developed the theory of the “homo ludens” at the end of the 1930s, humans seem to have an inherent need to play. Children learn how their environment works through play, and “playing” is also part of our everyday lives as adults. In the 1950s and ’60s, many artists began working with a playful approach in their works as well. This was not only meant to incorporate an element of entertainment, but also to address fundamental questions of art that had arisen since the beginning of modernism.
These so-called play-objects – or “variation objects” or “participation objects” – encouraged beholders to manipulate and move the work in question through various interventions. The aspect of movement also demonstrates an affinity to kinetic art. By becoming actively involved, people who were interested in art were able to approach a work in a way that would not have been possible by simply looking at the work. This not only intensified their perception of the work, it also resulted in questions that are also still relevant today. For example: Does good art need to be finished by the artist? What makes art art? Can an artist define how a work should be understood in the first place?
Pierre Keller (born 1945 in Gilly, Switzerland) is a trained graphic designer. In the art world, he is known as the successful director of ECAL (École cantonale d'art de Lausanne). He is also a gallery owner and a politician. Inspired by his early interest in kinetic and Op art, at the end of the 1960s he began to explore play-objects and their implications. His “Pyramide continue (positiv/négativ)” from 1969 plays not only with opposites in the form of two pyramids, one pointing outwards and one inward, but also with the contrast between the black and white. The latter defines both the pyramids and the teardrop-shaped objects, which have inbuilt magnets that allow them to be moved anywhere on the two main elements like “playing pieces,” thus creating many different variations. Although Keller soon began to concentrate more on photography in the mid-1970s, this wall object nevertheless reflects the ideals of a generation of artists who, despite their clear and non-representational language of forms, liked to challenge the beholder, sometimes with a bit of humor.