Poetics of Motion
- Possibility of Ahn, Soo Jin's Kinetic Sculpture -


One of the greatest Kinetic sculptor of this century Jean Tinguely once said: "For me,
the machine is above all an instrument that permits me to be poetic. If you respect the machine, if you enter into a game with the machine, then perhaps you can make a truly joyous machine - by joyous, 1 mean free," He was the artist who made the work Homage to New York in 1960 with various materials and junks, which was planned to be
destroyed of itself after moving about some thirty minutes. This extremely nonsensical work of self-destruction seemed to be an absurd drama deriding machine and mechanical civilization itself. Art seems to be a mere useless surplus product of the age, and above all where does Kinetic Art representing the mechanical aesthetics of industrial society stand? Tinguely, in a way, spoke as if it would be possible to enjoy freedom through art, but in another way, he suddenly ridiculed it with all his might. As we have seen in the demonic contract of Dr. Faustus and Mephistopheles, also the
promise of mechanical aesthetics requires the partner to pay a high price for the mutual contract. We know it too well that material affluence and unlimited power over nature which mechanical civilization promised did result in unbearable pain before the promise was yet fulfilled. We start to look at Ahn Soo Jin's works from this trifling point of view.
Mechanization and Artistic Sensibility
As the word'Kinetic Art'comes from the Greek, kine'sis and kinetikos implying movement and mobility, it means art which involves movement in itself. This kind of art involves two categories, mainly of the precise sense in which there is speciflc quality of actual movement, and of non-representational art comprising an impression or appearance of moving through visual manipulation. Specifically, as the latter which is called Op Art seems to have been deeply reduced into the fleld of abstract art, we now usually refer to that term as works using the parameters of real time and motion.
This can be classifled into two categories: one is the art in which there is movement without mechanical means or power-driven equipments such as in the case of Alexander Calder and Jesus Soto, and the other literally with mechanical power such as electrical motor.
Kinetic Art in fact sprouted with the following statement of the fifth fundamental principle of The Realistic Manifesto made by Naum Gabo and Antoine Pevsner in Moscow 1920. "We renounce the thousand-year-old delusion in art that held the static rhythms as the only elements of the plastic and pictorial arts. We affirm in these arts a new element, the kinetic rhythms, as the basic forms of our perception of real time." Quite different from this kind of attempt, Marcel Duchamp earlier showed a work named Mobile in 1913 with the readymade of bicyle wheel on a stool, which was a reactionary Dadaist response toward conventional art system. ,
It is quite certain that we cannot omit the important roles of Futurists and Russian Constructivists who presented notable avantgarde thoughts in applying the concept of motion to art during that period. For example, the Italian poet F.T. Marinetti, the actual head of the Futurists, declared that "the world's magnificence has been enriched by a new beauty; the beauty of speed." He might well have seen rich artistic illusion of his age in mechanical motion of motor car. In the mean 'time, In 1920 Vladimir Tatlin, who was so optimistic about the new future of Russia after the Revolution, presented the miniature model of Monument for the
Third International with unprecedented architectural scale and mechanical movement as the symbol of Zeitgeist. This complex tower was to be constructed in the form of a massive spiral which efficaciously conveyed the dynamism of the age. Inside the structure, would hang a cylinder, a cube and a sphere containing meeting h.311s, offices and, at the very top, an information center - all revolving at different rates of speed by special power transmission facility. Although Tatlin's tower was a stupendous declaration of faith in a communist society, it failed to be built due to Russia's poor economic condition but for a large wooden model, However, it was to be judged greatly in the future because of his highly intuitive intention to combine artistic and utilitarian form, and applying dynamics of time to mechanical motion.

Poetics of Movement, or Equivalence of Consciousness

Ahn Soo Jin is an artist dreaming of the happy combination of machine and art. He has tried in every way to eliminate the antagonism existing between art and machine, and to realize artistic sensibility through mechanical motion. He thus has sometimes shown us
sacred agony of a scientist whO must engage in new experiments to verify his hypothesis. In other case, he has also outlined some ambitious adventures of a brave
inventor to expand the horizon of mechanical development. In both cases, it nleans that he is an owner of diligent and patient craftsmanship based on knowledge of machanical instruments and high-grade handicraft. In another way, we can easily find utterly exhausting destiny of a clown who is constantly requested of amusement and incitement from the desirous viewers.
His works are mainly based on mechanical movement, with which he has successfully formed certain narrative structure. ?nd that accomplishment he has made through mid-1980s to the present is . considerably worthy in the movement of Korean contemporary art. Under the name of Material, Light and Poetics for Movement, he has shown a .certain model of Kinetic sculpture quite rare in Korea, if we acknowledge the fact that his art has opened up an infinite potentiality of mechanics and artistic reflection. Aspects of an ambitious scientist or inventor can be identified in hls various machines. Those machines with timer processed by electrical motor show us various types of repetitive motions. Those movements are in most cases designed by the artist himself, or in other cases, motions through accidental and unexpected movement of the power transmission source itself are emphasized, illicit Band which shows the brilliant
combination of curves around the steel tower stands at the center of the exhibit space. This work, which displays slow circulation of steel band, is one of the best example of motion order. There are some works based on showing visual plasticity, such as Dangerous Love. A shape of heart is drawn on the wall when lines connected to the two
fishing rods are pulled by the motor. Endless illusion shows convulsive waves of long steel bands on the floor, and there is a strange object attached on the opposite wall inciting insidious desire, Those convulsive waves are in a way designed under careful
consideration and in a way uncalculated, showing the dramatic effect of serial waves going through and coming back to the steel bands on the floor. In Interior scene, a flower vase on the table turns around to untie the knots of the whole clothes hung on the wall. This seems to be a transference of poetic scene resulting from the artist's sensitive observation of his environment. There is another work from which we can identify sceneries related to reality In Swings and
Shark, shark's fins made of rubber repeating inhalation and exhalation form the b?ckground and swings with various photographic images pendulate to and fro. Here all the objects unrelated in any sensible way, are based on strange psychological association. If we would like to look at the symbolical motion of lively leap, we have to take a 1?ok at the work of Bird in Strange Place. There is repeated motions of slow stretch and fold a wing, we may well dream of a new fltght into the sky.

In Search for New Aesthetics of Machine

Kinetic art is in fact an art recognizing the laws of nature and responding to various movements of this world. There is an acknowledgement that nature does not stand still and a visualization of artistic response to it here. This is, in another way, a t'ranformation of inspection of nature into human consciousness.
Therefore, it is quite certain that not only technical creativity and talent, patient inquiry into technology, but also aesthetic sense and intuition of form are required here,
Through the efforts of Ahn Soo Jin, who is possessed of these qualities, we can meet with the fascinating methodology of kinetic art and its rich excitements. It is true that this kind of art is still based on worse conditions and environment compared to other genres of art, It is also true that it has its limitations of its own. However, paradoxically enough, it has rich potentiality of technical experiments. This is more to the point considering the situation of our own art history which has never verifled the aesthetics of machine.
It is certain that experiments alone do not make art, but Ahn Soo Jin's experiments of machine will overcome its present stage of experiment, growing into a mature aesthetics of machine. His creativity and talent still distinguished even in poor conditions of the present, will be even more broadened and deepened in the future. Por example, his work Bird in Strange Place will surely give us more visfral delight, if enlarged and put in spacious outdoor. Imagine the motion of its gigantic wing slowly spreading out in space. Imagine its majestic apperance in the open air, and the measure
of its total form slowly revealed in lapse of time,

To Conclude

Machine is not the marvelous origin of energy as we might think. In another sense, it is not the tactless object of slavery operated untiringly with switch on. It unexpectedly reflects human appearance and consciousness. Furthermore, it shows its close relatedness with nature. As this is the case, Kinetic Art applying machinery belongs to human activity containing artistic tnlth. Ahn Soo Jin's quest for physical and psychological process through mechanical motion, is in fact determined by human and natural condition. It is in this way that he refrains from being confined to Mephistopheles's contract of mechanical aesthetics. When we look into his poetics of motion and feel delighted by it, we become very happy viewers. It is because he is an artist dreaming of another future which is quite impossible to imagine for the present.
Rhee, Jong Soong (Art Critic)


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