06 April 2023

100 Years of Electricity in Art

Kinetismus Kinetic Construction

The publishers of Kinetismus: 100 Years of Electricity in Art—the catalogue of an exhibition held last year at the Kunsthalle in Prague—describe it as “the first comprehensive survey of art forms based on electricity and electronics.” The book explores a century of “plugged-in art”, which it distinguishes from the “unplugged art” (equivalent to acoustic music) that existed before the twentieth century.

The title Kinetismus comes from a term coined by Zdeněk Pešánek, “the father of neon art”, and his kinetic light sculptures were the initial inspiration for the exhibition. The catalogue builds on the work of curator Frank Popper, whose books include Origins and Development of Kinetic Art and Art of the Electronic Age. Peter Weibel, who co-edited Kinetismus with Christelle Havranek, previously co-edited the monumental Light Art from Artificial Light (Lichtkunst aus Kunstlicht) catalogue.

Kinetismus is divided into four broad categories: cinematography, kinetics, cybernetics, and computer art. Cinematography is represented by early abstract ‘absolute’ films such as Hans Richter’s Rhythmus ’21 (‘rhythm 21’), Viking Eggeling’s Diagonal Symphony (Diagonalsymphonien), and Walther Ruttmann’s Lichtspiel Opus I (‘light show I’). Kinetic sculptures include a replica of Naum Gabo’s groundbreaking Kinetic Construction.