Le Mouvement : From Cinema to Kinetics
Le Mouvement
From Cinema to Kinetics
M.J.T., February 22, 2010
The Museum Tinguely is restaging "Le Mouvement", the landmark exhibition held in the Galerie Denise René in Paris from 6 to 30 April 1955. Le manifeste jaune, the leaflet produced for the exhibition, postulated "Colour – Light – Motion – Time" as the basic principles for the further development of kinetic sculpture. Motion as a means of expression was also the common element in all the pieces in the show.

Jean Tinguely, Machine à dessiner, Relief méta-matique, 1955_2010, ProLitteris Zürich_Kunstmusem Basel-Martin P. Bühler
Jean Tinguely, Machine à dessiner, Relief méta-matique, 1955_2010, ProLitteris Zürich_Kunstmusem Basel-Martin P. Bühler


That said, the reliefs and sculptures in "Le Mouvement" varied considerably in their treatment of motion: Yaacov Agam, Jesús Rafael Soto and Victor Vasarely exhibited objects that unfolded as the viewer moved around the gallery. Other works by, again Yaacov Agam, but also Pol Bury, Robert Jacobsen and Richard Mortensen could be altered by active intervention on the part of the viewer. The show further included motor-driven, self-propelling works by Jean Tinguely. Finally, Robert Breer edited a flip book to accompany the exhibition.

Jean Tinguely, Sculpture méta-mécanique automobile, Sculpture méta-mécanique, 1954_Collection Centre Pompidou, Dist. RMN-Droits réservés
Jean Tinguely, Sculpture méta-mécanique automobile, Sculpture méta-mécanique, 1954_Collection Centre Pompidou, Dist. RMN-Droits réservés


The exhibition frameworked not only these new artistic positions – for some artists the show marked the beginning of their international career –, but also included works such as Marcel Duchamp's Rotary Demisphere and Alexander Calder's mobiles, which served as links to the historical kinetic experiments of the early avant-garde.

Alexander Calder, Mobile, s.d._2010, ProLitteris Zürich_Fondazione Marguerite Arp, Locarno
Alexander Calder, Mobile, s.d._2010, ProLitteris Zürich_Fondazione Marguerite Arp, Locarno


Besides emphasising movement as an extension of artistic expression in the classical disciplines, the manifesto distributed for the exhibition at the Galerie Denise René focused in particular on cinema. In the 1950s, "Cinéma", i.e., cinematography, literally "writing up of motion", was (again) viewed as a field of artistic endeavour that carried the promise of new impulses, possibilities and opportunities. Although films were not part of the actual exhibition, the accompanying programme included screenings of films ranging from the classics of German and French abstract experimental film of the 1920s, such as works by Viking Eggeling and Henri Chomette, to films by Oskar Fischinger, Len Lye and Norman McLaren as well as contemporary productions by Breer, Jacobsen and Mortensen.

Kasimir Malewitsch, Suprematistische Komposition, 1915_Fondation Beyeler, Riehen-Basel_Robert Bayer, Basel.
Kasimir Malewitsch, Suprematistische Komposition, 1915_Fondation Beyeler, Riehen-Basel_Robert Bayer, Basel.


The 1955 film programme serves as a bridge to the second part of the exhibition at the Museum Tinguely, which looks at the sources of kinetic art. This approach, unlike most disquisitions, takes as its starting point not the development in the field of sculpture, but the development in the filmic medium.

László Moholy-Nagy, Sans titre, 1925-1928-1929_Kunstmuseum Basel - Martin P. Bühler
László Moholy-Nagy, Sans titre, 1925-1928-1929_Kunstmuseum Basel - Martin P. Bühler


In the mid-1920s, the abstract experimental film – also called "abstract music for the eye" – was regarded as a new art form with great potential. The screening of "The Absolute Film" at the UFA Theatre in Berlin on 3 May 1925 is held to be the culmination of this development. In addition to works by Chomette, Fernand Léger/Dudley Murphy, Hans Richter and Walther Ruttmann, the screening included Eggeling's pioneering work Diagonal Symphony.

Viking Eggeling, 4 dessins pour Symphonie diagonale, 1919-1920_Kunstmuseum Basel - Martin P. Bühler
Viking Eggeling, 4 dessins pour Symphonie diagonale, 1919-1920_Kunstmuseum Basel - Martin P. Bühler


Besides these features, the programme brings together films by Marcel Duchamp, László Moholy-Nagy and Man Ray with preparatory works and related works in other disciplines. The concentrated presentation of films dating from the 1920s to the 1950s underscores the cinematographic aspect of "motion drawing": it was developed by means of sequences of drawings, photographic lighting (and shading in the case of photograms), time-dependent sculptural dynamism in light and space and a musical/optical connotation of optical/musical events; conversely, it served as an inspiration for the kinetic creations of the 1950s, which often referred explicitly to models of the 1920s.

Man Ray, Le Retour à la raison, France 1923_Man Ray - Cinédoc 2010
Man Ray, Le Retour à la raison, France 1923_Man Ray - Cinédoc 2010


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