Tag Archives: kinetic art

The Meta-Cinema of Ian Burns

Are you tired of CGI dominating cinema but you still want to enjoy some illusions? Are you tired of the virtual world where windows of illusion disguise the operating system? Then you need the meta-cinema of Ian Burns.

“Contemporary technology overvalues invisibility in the delivery of the screen-based image. I find this a bit sinister. For me, this cult of the virtual is often the antithesis of the embodied experience that art viewing, when at its richest, is often about. The structure that supports the contemporary screen is not just a technological one, but a social and political one. I try to emphasise technological presence in my work, not just to relish its possibilities but to also expose its limitations and flaws.” – Ian Burns (ACMI blog)

You don’t need to know any art theory to appreciate the art of Ian Burns; the whole thing is exposed. All the wiring is visible, the little video cameras, the materials are all familiar ordinary things that you could buy down at the shops. It is a magic trick so good that the magician can show how the trick is done and you still marvel at it.

There is the appeal of the idea of an artist/inventor playing with artistic experiments like Leonardo da Vinci or Marcel Duchamp. Reminding me that the history of engineering started with Hero of Alexandria (c. 10–70 AD) making toys steam engines and other entertaining mechanisms and that currently computing technology is being driven by the games industry. Not surprisingly Ian Burns trained as an engineer.

There is more to the art of Ian Burns than a few video tricks. Burns describes his work as “meta-cinematic”. He gives the audience both the illusion and the crude reality that created it. It is about the satisfying that basic psychological drive to get to see the back of things, to know what is behind them. This knowledge does not destroy our interest in the illusions anymore than an atheist looses interest in religion (most atheists know more about religion than the religious) or watching a puppeteer pull the strings, instead it adds another level of interest to the work.

In his ACMI exhibition, “In the Telling” Burns sequences his kinetic devices to create separate shots for a simple road movie. We all have these dreams of escape, it is a simple illusion but the art is in the telling.

Ian Burns is the Commission Artist for the 2012 Melbourne Art Fair and is also on exhibition at ACMI. I first encountered Ian Burns art two years ago at Anna Schwartz Gallery and it left me wanting more (see my blog post: Ian Burns “and then…”).



Moving Machines in Melbourne

Part of the pump had broken down and red liquid had dripped on to the newspaper lined Vitrine but that didn’t matter. It was bound to have happened with such a complex and pointless machine. And so much else was still turning, extending, flapping, squeezing a ball of wool and a rotating a still life with grapes; all driven by a single electric motor with several belts connecting it to other devices. “Sub Assembly” by Danny Frommer at Platform is a great, wacky creation (see my YouTube video of “Sub Assembly”) and it made me reflect on the other kinetic sculptures in Melbourne.

In 2010 Cameron Robbins “Very Slow Drawing Machine” was installed in the forecourt of the NGV at Federation Square – the Fracture Gallery. Drawing machines are not intended to replace the human in art but to produce more drawings without the artist is attendance. Many artists have made machines that draw, notably Jean Tinguely. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean_Tinguely Robbins has powered his machine with sustainable solar and wind power. The results of this machine are not impressive; the fan patterns are not anything to write about. (See RMIT’s media release about Cameron Robbins “Very Slow Drawing Machine”.) Still it is always interesting to see kinetic sculpture responding to natural forces, engaging in pointless activities and, even, the occasional break down. For it is these features that makes kinetic sculpture essentially appealing.

Konstantin Dimopolulos, “Red Centre”, 2006

There are more permanent public kinetic sculptures in Melbourne. At Federation Square there is Konstantin Dimopolulos “Red Centre” 2006, Dimopoulos lived in New Zealand and would be familiar with the work of New Zealand artist, Len Lye, the master of kinetic sculptures. “Red Centre” takes some of Lye’s ideas and expands them into a post minimalist sculpture that rattles and sways. Parts of “The Travellers” by Nadim Karan, the sculpture on the Sandridge Bridge over the Yarra, are wind powered; several sets of small metal windmills turn on some of the figures. And, I’m told, that somewhere in the Docklands, there is “Blowhole”, a 15-metre-high, wind-powered sculpture by Sydney artist, Duncan Stemier.

Compared to all of these other kinetic sculptures that I’ve seen in Melbourne, “Sub Assembly” by Danny Frommer is an outstanding example because so many things moved and, most importantly, it is so fun.

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