Carlos Cruz – Diez
Gerhard Von Graevenitz
The MOVING IS LIVING exhibition at the Art Stations gallery provides another look at works from the collection of Grażyna Kulczyk in which pieces by classic names from the world of optical and kinetic art are shown alongside works by extremely interesting young artists who have never yet been exhibited in Poland.
Movement is natural to all beings in the material world. It is a ubiquitous phenomenon, but its nature defies attempts at understanding and definition. Movement means change – art commonly makes use of this potential, both formally and conceptually. Introducing movement to art is tantamount to consenting to unpredictability in the creative results. The MOVING IS LIVING exhibition features works of art that confront the phenomenon of movement, proposing three perspectives by which to approach it. Each of these contexts – physics and kinetics, philosophy and perception, nature and chance – makes the viewer aware of the elusive nature of movement.
The first part of the exhibition is centred around work involving physical movement in a literal sense – thus, the language of science is used as a tool for interpretation. Reflections based on this perspective are offered by Professor Grzegorz Musiał, a lecturer in the Faculty of Physics at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań. Physics is used to quantitatively describe processes that are constantly taking place on the Earth and to explain the laws governing nature. Does knowing formulae and definitions from physics help us to understand movement as it is used in the work of artists such as Loris Gréaud, Sebastian Hempel and Gerhard von Graevenitz? Are we so sure that movement can be calculated with exact precision? Science helps to ask questions about the nature of movement, but it is still confronted with unpredictability in many phenomena. Movement includes an element of randomness – even maintaining a given direction is unpredictable in terms of the details. In the most elementary description of Nature – quantum physics – one can only determine the probability of a system being in one of a number of possible states.
The process by which humans perceive motion proves to be an equally elusive issue. Viewers can see movement in works whose elements actually move in relation to one another, but they can also see it in those that are static, and which provide only the illusion of movement. Optics is concerned with the study of this process in relation to the physical characteristics of the human eye, yet it is unable to predict and describe the entirety of the viewing experience. This is because it is determined not only by visual impressions, but also by elusive and subjective factors that shape this experience. Philosophy has offered reflections on how the objective (physical) and subjective (emotional) perception of art operate in combination. The phenomenology of perception developed by Maurice Merleau-Ponty provides some of the tools used to analyze the psychology behind the perception of movement. For example, in the work of Carlos Cruz-Diez, Victor Vasarely and Sebastian Hempel, one can see that movement is not something external to a work of art, or merely an internal feature of the work – it is realized in the relationship between the work and an active viewer, and its final effect is beyond the control of the artist.
The last theme of the exhibition is the relationship of art to the dynamics of the natural world around us. The phenomenon of movement observed in Nature is unpredictable – this enigmatic quality captivates and inspires artists. In art, handing the power to create over to nature means giving up control over the final shape of the work. In his series "Tree Drawings", Tim Knowles allows tree branches moved by the wind to draw. These works do not so much portray movement, as they give it – in this case, that of nature – the power to create, the right to authorship of a work. Žilvinas Kempinas makes use of the kinetic potential of banal materials, such as magnetic tape. Setting it in motion represents a conscious decision by the artist, but the final path of the black line’s "dancing" in the air is beyond his control. The artistic outcome here is therefore completely unpredictable – works of art "live their own lives", and the process by which they are created (and the logic governing this process) remains unknown to the viewer (and the artist), as it is not clear whether movement in nature is defined by chance or by a force as yet undiscovered by humanity.