Satire & Surrealism – 100 Years of Kinetic Art, Rotterdam

As Rotterdam is a very experimental city, it is the perfect platform to get acquainted to the school of kinetic art. Fuelled by movement and interaction, the latest exhibition at the city’s progressive Kunsthal Museum ’Action<-> Reaction.100 Years of Kinetic Art’, will surprise and mesmerises at the same time.

When you visit a gallery, you don’t always get immersed in the art. Normally it registers with your eyes and they tell the rest of your body what emotion to feel; But autumn’s retrospective, celebrates the hard to pin down concept of kinetic art.

Conrad Shawcross, Slow Arc Inside a Cube IV, 2009.

The movement peaked in the twentieth century and was spearheaded by Marcel Duchamp, Alexander Calder and Victor Vasarely, whose aim was to express the intellectual developments of Einstein’s time and space theory. However, it gained even more notoriety in the sixties, with artists including Bridget Riley, Yayoi Kusama, Jan van Munster and Dan Flavin developing an individual approach to politically radical visuals, by using surreal graphics, optical illusions and mobile art for a wider audience. Even younger generation artists such as Jeppe Hein, Žilvinas Kempinas and Philippe Decrauzat have embraced the experimentational style by skilfully incorporating rhythm, vibration and motion into their artworks.

Exposition – Ce fabuleux monde moderne.

Kinetic Art has been around for more than a century, and is the first of its kind to incorporate movement into art, allowing it be viewed in real time rather than implied time. As well as introducing the element of time and stability, it explores our natural state of vision. Scientifically our eyes tell us what we are seeing, but these artists have chosen to produce works which satirise modern society and how we are expected to behave, and question our views on science, technology, and capitalist production.

Christian Megert,
Spiegelenvironment documenta 4, 1968 as a remake in the exhibition “OP ART”, SCHIRN – KUNSTHALLE FRANKFURT, 2007 .

World War II played an important role of the movement’s progression, and it became a major phenomenon in the late 1950s and the 1960s. Bridget Riley and Victor Vasarely are most well known virtuosos, and although their work does not appear to be based on any particular patterns from the real world, you can see the influence of nature and begs the question, how and why do we see things?

The site specific installation incorporates twelve themes covering different aspects of perception and out of the ordinary experiences. Expect unusual forces of light, movement, rhythm, structure, vibration, space, radiance, instability and rotation to envelop you as you enjoy the show; And although static, give the impression of movement, but there are no dimensions as to how you enjoy it and viewers are encouraged to flow freely at their own pace.

With large and small scale constructions, all senses are stimulated and the work on show, has re-invented the meaning of modern art. The mirrors, structures, sounds, and force fields that you encounter will either please or irritate, but all will appeal to your senses in some way.

As everything is unexpected, it is also iconic and inspirational, and each new piece offers a new benchmark for self-discovery. The artists, although different in their approach have reached the same finish line of de-materialising the object and it’s illusion. Therefore what you expect is unexpected, and shakes up the stability of what is natural- but is it surreal or hallucinogenic? You have to decide for yourself.

Curated by the renowned French guest curator Serge Lemoine (former President of Musée d’Orsay, Paris) and Marianne Le Pommeré (Historian of Art), the aim of the exhibition is to reinterpret and properly reevaluate kinetic art of yesterday in the context of contemporary performative arts, and will certainly make you think.


If you are curious about art, or Rotterdam- the city of merging lines, the silhouettes, mighty bridges, skyscrapers and bright lights is the perfect pairing for  ‘Action>-<Reaction : 100 Years of Kinetic Art’.

On show until Jan 20th 2019

Read more on the Rotterdam Art Festival here >