Ways of Seeing - Ways of Participating

Many of the artists featured in the exhibition considered themselves inventors and constructors. The structures they built—including a number of remarkably complex machines—drew on the latest achievements in science and engineering. These works appealed to growing audiences who were curious about these new developments. Yet, the aim wasn’t just to entertain, but also to reveal the mechanisms behind the way our sense of sight functions and to manifest the multilayered structures of vision and motion through a work of art.

These artists abandoned traditional modes of creating art in favor of a means of expression capable of capturing new themes and new experiences made possible by technology, mass media, and unbridled industrialization. Their fascination with cybernetics, experimental scientific methods and systems theory was linked to a pursuit of alternative norms, new universal principles upon which new scripts for the future could be based. They would otherwise probe the gaps, shifts, or errors in the existing status quo, venturing beyond the era’s prevailing determinism.

Optical images built on precise mathematical calculations, despite their use of minimalist and relatively traditional means, generated complex visual effects, such as the impression of depth or the sensation of vibration. The viewer experienced the illusion that the space of the painterly representation stretched beyond the surface of the painting. On other occasions, the arrangement of lines, indistinct contours, and loops produced an impression of movement and pulsation on the canvas, creating as-yet-unknown, living landscapes. Frequently presented in the public space, such as airports, railway stations and university campuses, these dynamic and decentralized assemblages appealed to passersby because motion was such an important element of each piece. In order to properly “see” such an object, one had to keep moving. And so, the kinetic contribution of the spectator-in-motion became an indispensable part of both of the work and its reception, to the point that the categories themselves began to get blurred, much like the optical effects they sought to put into order. Carlos Cruz-Diez referred to his works as “support for events,” which were initiated by the viewers themselves, and it is through this opening in the fabric of art that kineticism has come to represent a form of artistic experimentation with wide-ranging connotations of social and political utopianism.