Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Slick as Oil - Arthur Ganson's Mechanical Art

It was mad Michael Leigh who first introduced me to this man. I'm very grateful he did.

Kinetic Sculpture? Is it art or is it, mechanics? For me, it is very much art. Comic perhaps as it can bring a smile to your face but also intelligent. In other words, it makes you smile as you think.

Arthur Ganson, a man both creative and witty.



Ganson is not the first in his chosen field. Rube Goldberg, born seventy-two years before certainly was an influence as was the legendary Heath Robinson. Both men were cartoonists whose illustrations depicted incredible machines constructed of impossible design. Although each implausible contrivance appeared highly complex, almost to being pointlessness, each had a purpose. Bits of string tied to crank shafts turned by a series of cogs of descending sizes. In many ways, Doctor Who's character is based on these men. We have often witnessed the time traveller creating the most unlikely machines from various parts found scattered about. The first to work within the kinetic sculpture field was very possibly Swiss artist, Jean Tinguely. A Dadaist at heart who worked in paint and who called his mechanical works meta-mechanics.



Arthur Ganson's work has been described as exploring existential concepts. Maybe. I'm not sure I care. It all seems a little pretentious to me or perhaps it is merely me dismissing that which I don't understand.

Born in Connecticut in 1955 he often describes his work as being part mechanical engineering and part choreography. That makes perfect sense to me. What doesn't is the way some suggest his work is similar to that of Samuel Beckett. I don't get that, don't get it at all. I mean, I understand the absurdity of the devices and know Beckett was an absurdist but how those two facts meet under the auspices of Ganson's work seems as if someone is trying to add gravitas to what Ganson does. He doesn't need it. His work stands on its own without needing either to intellectualize or compare it.

When I look at Ganson's art I find it either fascinates me beyond my abilities to say why or has me laughing aloud. It is this effect that sends me wallowing toward Dada. It is this aged art movement that took itself less than seriously even if creativity can be a serious business.




If Ganson makes me think of any other artist then it would be Gibert and George. What they do is create sculptures that challenge thinking but are also of a humorous, invariably shocking nature. Ganson is much the same. You make what you like of his creations but they are undeniably inventive. 

Armed with his Batchelor of Fine Arts degree gained at the University of New Hampshire in 1978, Ganson has gone on to make a name for himself as the foremost exponent of Kinetic Art. Cranks turn, cogs grind and a trickle of oil slithers down to the base of the machine. Whimsical creations made of levers and pulleys as yet again thick oil slides sensuously over the mechanism. Message appear instructing the operative to spin the wheel faster; as they do so the message repeats 'faster.' Ganson is describing the world we live in where machines rule the mechanics. If this isn't absurd I don't know what is?






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Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.