Artist Aaron Marx offers a dispatch from the first in a series of juried exhibitions planned by Make It Move, a new Minneapolis arts organization dedicated to support of kinetic and interactive art.
March 20, 2015

Samantha Leopold-Sullivan, Conflicted, 2014.The show, Body and Machine, is on view at the Northrup King Building through March 22. 

Make It Move is a new arts organization devoted to the exhibition and promotion of kinetic and interactive arts. This past weekend I stopped by the Northrup King Building, in Northeast Minneapolis, to check their first in a series of juried exhibitions, Body and Machine: An Exhibition of Kinetic and Interactive Art.

Consisting of artists, scientists, engineers, musicians, and craft people of all sorts, the show is an assemblage of really awesome examples of kinetic and interactive art. Interaction, here, is broadly defined, but the varied works all ask the viewer to participate in some way; many require you actually to touch the art for full appreciation.There’s a bicycle pump connected to bowling pins, a room filled with what smells like strawberry milk powder, musical instruments made of found objects, and all manner of works built from various sensors and gears.

Cecilia Schiller, Teamwork

I really enjoyed the gears - specifically, the clock-like sculptures from Cecillia Schiller, who has over the last several years "combined original carvings and woodworking to create gear driven, interactive sculptures called automata." According to her website: “a turn of the crank brings the whimsical scene to life. Even the most committed curmudgeon has been known to crack a smile while experiencing the magic of these award winning creations." Indeed, two of her works on display made me smile, both for the simplicity of their interaction and their beautiful craft.

My favorite was a sculpture and video called Diagram by the River by Jeff Ballard. Although unplugged - not surprisingly, as it seemed quite dangerous - this work is a Frankenstein of a machine, brought to life through the collision of a 12V-motor belted to a repurposed car engine. Growing out of the pistons, steel legs use the motion of the engine to slowly move the sculpture across the ground. A video - beautifully shot - offers poetic accompaniment for the work: it shows Ballard assembling the sculpture and testing it on the banks of the Mississippi River.

Opening night featured a performance by Savage Aural Hotbed, a band that "creates their compelling sound using conventional and 'found object' percussion instruments, bass guitar, electronically modified horns and vocals, and power tools." Offering up these instruments to the public only served to amplify the already amazing sense of participation in the gallery. In what seemed like a continuous, hour-long jam session band members and gallery visitors pounded, banged, and scratched - arms flailing and sparks flying.

I’ve been thinking a lot about interaction in my own work. Visiting this exhibition stirred up some really interesting questions for me: What do we mean when we say “interactive”? Is it enough for work to respond to the environment in some way? What differentiates art from craft? What makes interaction successful? That is, can we do more than just ask visitors to push a button? What does the best of this work leave with a viewer - a thought, emotion, or theme? I think the art, in interactive work like this, emerges from a nuanced approach to all these questions. Finding ways to creatively engage the visitor in new and unexpected ways is the great potential of interactive and kinetic art.

Time is running out to see this show - it is only open until March 22. I recommend getting over to the Northrup King Building to see it before then. Better yet, plan on checking out the closing event on Saturday, March 21 with Tim Fort. There are not enough occasions to see art that begs to be touched and interacted with in this way - this is such an opportune event, and the selection of work too good to miss out on.

I, for one, would welcome more interactive and kinetic art in our community. I know I will be keeping an eye out for Make It Move calls for art and shows in the future.

Noted exhibition information and links:

Body and Machine: An Exhibition of Kinetic and Interactive Art is on view in the Northrup King Building, #332, in Minneapolis through March 22. The closing night reception, featuring Tim Fort, will be Saturday, March 21 at 8 pm.

Aaron Marx is an artist and designer specialized in new media (video, projection, and digital fabrication), interactive installation, and socially engaged art. Through various media, his work examines the relationship between memory and the built environment, considers the role of temporal art in public space, and investigates new forms of interaction between people and digital tools. These works range from data visualization mapping the death toll of war, to interactive light installations tracking objects in space, the exploration of sacred space, and even inspiring the community to dream through participatory activity and public practice.


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