Kinetic art – basically any art piece that incorporates dynamic moving elements – has been sprouting up all over Singapore in recent years – from the iconic Kinetic Rain in Changi Airport, to the swinging chandeliers by artist Suzann Victor, found in the Singapore National Museum.
The latest piece to join the movement is an installation at Science Centre Singapore (SCS), created by Dutch artist Willem van Weeghel, whose kinetic art installations have been described as “ASMR for the eyes”.
One of van Weeghel’s older works
Van Weeghel’s works usually feature solid shapes and lines that move in synchronous motion against a flat canvas, creating ever-changing shapes and patterns not unlike a Mondrian painting come to life.
The installation is part of SCS’s efforts to move towards art-based STEM learning – which arguably makes both art and science more accessible. The Peak spoke to van Weeghel while he was in town to install the art work.
How did this collaboration happen?
It was a unique chance to be showcased in a scientific institution, a far cry from the quiet museums and white galleries that my art is typically enjoyed in. I was excited to explore a new way of reaching a different set of audience. This was a unique opportunity for me to make my artwork more playful and personal in an easily-accessible environment
What will your piece for SCS be about?
The piece depicts the continuous process of curiosity in a world that is constantly changing. The movements of the lines dance both in sync and total disconnect, reflecting the mix of chaos and order that forms our reality. I hope to inspire people to see a connection between the arts and sciences. People usually treat the two disciplines as opposite fields of study but they are actually two sides of the same coin.
What is it about kinetic art that attracts you?
The magic of kinetic art is that it pushes me to be so much more than just an artist. To bring the artwork to life, I have to do it all – I have to be an artist, a Computer-Aided Design (CAD) designer, a choreographer and a technician. I was not trained Technically [to build and programme the electronics] so I had to pick up the necessary skills along the way.
Do you already have the resultant pattern possibilities in mind when you’re creating one of your sculptures?
No, it’s more of the result of a lifetime of experience, effort and experimentation. Often, it start with an idea of what I want people to experience. I’ll sketch this immediately into the notebook I carry with me. Once I’ve concretised the idea, I’ll study techniques to bring this idea into reality.
When working on the piece, I’d come up with a set of sequences or what I like to call “choreographies”. I’d select the ones suitable for the piece I am working on, then I work with machines to build the actual artwork itself. The final process is to develop a script that will come up with a completely random lineup of these sequences. Even I don’t know which sequence will be thrown up next! It usually takes about 4-5 months from conceptualising the artwork to the final build.
I’m also always looking at how to progress from my previous artworks. For example, the moving parts of the art piece at the Science Centre are steel bars mounted on the wall. A next step to this could be to take them off the wall and place them on the ground, or even make people hold these bars and dance with them.
What are the reactions to your art usually like?
Most people tell me that they really enjoy how my work calms them, and that they feel a sense of peacefulness and tranquillity as they lose themselves in time. This is what I really like to hear.
On the other hand, the strangest comment I’ve ever heard was from one of my technicians in the studio. He said: “I had to try very hard to resist from destroying the artwork!”
It turned out that he felt that the pieces were moving too perfectly in sync. The way the pieces lined up so neatly bothered him a great deal and the perfection gave him aggressive feelings. I had to make him promise not to destroy the artwork.
Video: Willem van Weeghel