3rd February 2011 — 6th February 2011
I've just been in a large industrial bunker full of chattering, bleeping, flashing gadgets.
As events go, Kinetica is an unusual hybrid, a glorious clash of disciplines: art fair meets engineering workshop meets trade show. You can find works created from all materials imaginable: rubber, wood, neon, leather, plastic, wire, bone, feathers and, if you count the extra ear that's been grown on Stelarc's arm, from human flesh.
Creators hover about their stands ready to explain, demonstrate, and possibly even sell their brainchildren to you. Some tinker and make running repairs. At least one device has mutinied on its master and stopped working altogether.
'Out of Order' by The Trope Troupe plays on this eventuality. A monitor displays a lengthy error message. Only if you read carefully through the statement lamenting a 'stupidly designed fault indicating system' do you notice an invitation to punch numbers on the numerical keypad. These take you to mystifying electoral roll lists, seemingly meaningless clumps of words, or a heavily photoshopped screen grab of David Cameron and his coalition sidekick.
The ArtHertz stand resembles an elderly person's sitting room, with faded green walls, a vintage TV, and matching wooden furniture. Andrew Back describes 'Time for Tea' as a satirisation of the British sense of impotence when the nation meets complex global problems and the typically English way of dealing with them. He's seamlessly customized a 1950's voltmeter to measure real time fluctuations in the National Grid power supply to indicate the best, and worst, time to put the kettle on. Perched atop a vase stand, a leather handbag expands and contracts matter-of-factly. 'Ventricle' is the same age as its' (re)animator, Sarah Angliss, who has programmed it to open and close in time with her heartbeat. In the corner, the TV shows 'Bride of Frankenstein', a short black and white film by Dennis da Silva and Roger Spy which, along with Andrew Back's piece, taps into an ongoing project, 'Electricity and Ghosts' which centres on Battersea Power Station. Adrian Lee's 'Search for Extra Terrestrial Existence (SETI) Citrus Division' transmits hopefully to the universe in a 1960s Ladybird Book of Science kind of way. Powered by sixty-five lemons, a disc which has the Morse code equivalent of “WE ARE HERE” cut out slowly revolves. A laser beam is able to intermittently hit an angled mirror projecting it up into space until the message is finally intercepted by the alien equivalent of SETI, or the lemons run out of juice, in which case the elderly person will have to pop out to the greengrocer's.
There's no shortage of robots here, including David Cranmer's 'Brian, a chainsaw powered penguin that plays the drums', which was sadly unplugged today (as was his 'Calculator Orrery', with vintage 1970s calculators where the planets should be).
Christiaan Zwanikken takes roboteering in another direction. In 'The Good, The Bad & The Ugly', a trio of birds' heads and a disembodied wing on motorized armatures act out a couple of lines from the film, their jaws moving spookily in synchronization with a distorted mash-up of the soundtrack.
Kristoffer Myskja has crafted an exquisite rotating brass mechanism you might find inside a grandfather clock that makes two drinking glasses sing by gently rubbing pads around the rims. A pumping system varies the levels of water in the glasses, gradually changing their tones. When the water is at the same level in both glasses a third tone is created by the interference, though with all the clamour in the background you need to put your ear very close to hear anything at all.
Alex Posada's work is at the other end of the scale. He describes his bold and muscular light/sound experience 'The Particle' as “hypnotic…a small personal reproduction of a big bang.” Positioned in a darkened area with safety rails around it, the machine is a burly contraption; basically a series of concentric metal rings with LEDs attached that spin around a metal column. Persistence of vision creates a spectrum of spheres, crescents and go-fast-stripes while a cranked-up speaker system whooshes, throbs, whines, screeches and honks. It's quite an onslaught. I left the building with ears ringing and retinas burning, which is a sign that I'd had a great time.
35 Marylebone Road
London NW1 5LS