Jean Tinguely, Homage to New York, 1960, mixed media. Performance view, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden, Museum of Modern Art, New York, March 17, 1960. Photo: David Gahr.

FROM ITS START, kinetic art has been possessed—by the uncanny Surrealist automaton as much as by the technological promise of a utopian future. And, in turn, it has haunted modern sculpture, which had long been vexed by Marx’s famous description of the commodity as a diabolical dancing object. Kinetic art, we came to think, was a bit of an embarrassment—indeed, an aesthetic dead end. But might we instead see kineticism as the very foundation of contemporary modes of experience, from the projected image to spectacle to the media network? Taking his cue from Artforum’s inaugural cover, which featured a Jean Tinguely automated sculpture, art historian Eric C. H. de Bruyn reexamines kinetic art’s labyrinthine past and maps a new space for its passages among us.


All genealogies of media art have their roots in a ghost story. And perhaps none more so than kinetic

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