Jean Tinguely

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photo of Jean Tinguely by Erling Mandelmann in 1963; - quote of Tinguely, 1956: 'The only stable thing is movement'

Jean Tinguely (22 May 1925 – 30 August 1991) was a Swiss painter and sculptor, married to Niki de Saint Phalle. He is best known for his sculptural machines or kinetic art, in the Dada tradition; known officially as metamechanics. Tinguely's art satirized the mindless overproduction of material goods in advanced industrial society.

Quotes of Jean Tinguely[edit]

chronologically ordered, after date of the quotes of Tinguely
Tinguely, c. 1963: 'Le Transport'; scrap metal components
photo of Jean Tinguely in 1963, by Erling Mandelmann - quote of Tinguely, 1961: 'Everything changes. Death is a transition from movement to movement. Death is static. Death is movement. Death is static. Death is movement.'
Tinguely, 1965: 'Eos xk (3)', at the Israel Museum, Jerusalem - quote of Tinguely, 1965: 'Currently, my machines are black and sometimes gentle, if not sexy or exuding a contained violence; I finally found the technical means for accomplishing this'
Tinguely, c. 1967: 'Gears'; scrap metal components - part of 'Le Paradis Fantastique' by Jean Tinguely and w:Niki de Saint Phalle together
Tinguely, 1971-72: 'Chaos I'; scrap metal components
Tinguely, 1971-73: 'Large Spiral / Grosse Spirale'; steel-plates
Tinguely, 1972-73: 'Heureka'; scrap metal components
Tinguely, 1972-73: detail of 'Heureka'; old components
Tinguely, 1977: a piece of the 'Carneval Fountain', in front of Tinguely museum in Basel
Tinguely, late 1970's: 'title unknown'; scrap metal components
Tinguely, 1983: 'Fontaine Stravinski'; co-production with Niki de Saint Phalle, near w:Saint-Merri, Paris
Tinguely, 1984: 'Jo Siffert Fountain'; scrap metal components

Quotes, 1950's[edit]

  • THE ONLY STABLE THING IS MOVEMENT
    • Quote from Tinguely's letter to Peter Selz (1956); quoted in: Osbel Suárez et al. (2007) Lo[s] cinético[s]. p. 256.
  • They'll all pee blue for one week to ten days, for about the duration of the show. The first opening I've enjoyed!
    • Quote of Jean Tinguely (1958), cited in: Heidi E. Violand-Hobi, ‎Jean Tinguely (1995) Jean Tinguely: life and work. p. 10.
  • The relationship of art and play: to play is art - consequently I play. I play enraged.
    • Jean Tinguely (1959), quoted in: ACM multimedia 2000: proceedings. ACM. Special Interest Group on Multimedia (2000). p. 19.
  • Everything moves continuously. Immobility does not exist. Don't be subject to the influence of out-of-date concepts. Forget hours, seconds and minutes. Accept instability. Live in Time. Be static - with movement. For a static of the present movement. Resist the anxious wish to fix the instantaneous, to kill that which is living.
    Stop insisting on 'values' which can only break down. Be free, live. Stop painting time. Stop evoking movements and gestures. You are movement and gesture. Stop building cathedrals and pyramids which are doomed to fall into ruin. Live in the present, live once more in Time and by Time - for a wonderful and absolute reality
    • Original text in German:
      Es bewegt sich alles, Stillstand gibt es nicht. Lasst Euch nicht von überlebten Zeitbegriffen beherrschen. Fort mit den Stunden, Sekunden und Minuten. Hört auf, der Veränderlichkeit zu widerstehen. SEID IN DER ZEIT – SEID STATISCH, SEID STATISCH – MIT DER BEWEGUNG. Fur Statik. Im Jetzt stattfindenden JETZT... Lasst es sein, Kathedralen und Pyramiden zu bauen, die zerbröckeln wie Zuckerwerk. Atmet tief, lebt Jetzt, lebt auf und in der Zeit. Für eine schöne und absolute Wirklichkeit!
    • In For Statics (original title: Für Statik), 1958 programmatic text for the 'Concert for Seven Pictures' in Düsseldorf: as quoted in: Arts/Canada. Vol. 25. (1968) p. 4.

Static static, static !, 1959[edit]

Quotes from Static static, static !, 12 November 1959, Jean Tinguely
  • Static, static, static! Be static! Be static! Movement is static! Movement is static! Movement is static because it is the only immutable thing - the only certainty, the only unchangeable. The only certainty is that movement is static.
    • Quoted in: Guy Brett, ‎Hayward Gallery, ‎Museu d'Art Contemporani (Barcelona, Spain) (2000) Force fields: phases of the kinetic. p. 250.
  • Only in movement do we find the true essence of things. Today we can no longer believe in permanent laws, defined religions, durable architecture or eternal kingdoms. Immutability does not exist. All is movement. All is static.
  • We are afraid of movement because it stands for decomposition – because we see our desintegration in movement. Continuous static movement marches on ! It cannot be stopped. We are fooling ourselves if we close our eyes and refuse to recognize the change. Actually, decomposition does not exist! Decomposition does not exist ! Decomposition is a state envisaged only by us because we do not want it to exist, and because we dread it.

Quotes, 1960's[edit]

  • Currently, my machines are black and sometimes gentle, if not sexy or exuding a contained violence; I finally found the technical means for accomplishing this.
  • francais: Actuellement mes machines sont noires et parfois même douces, si pas sexy ou alors d'une violence contenue, techniquement j'arrive enfin à les faire bien.

untitled statements in 'Zero 3', (1961)[edit]

Quotes from: untitled statements in 'Zero 3' (1961), Jean Tinguely
  • Immobile, certain, and permanent things, ideas, works and beliefs change, transform, and disintegrate...Movement is the only static, final, permanent, and certain thing. Static means transformation...Do not hold on to anything...Do not pinpoint anything!.. .We are fooling ourselves if we close our eyes and refuse to recognize the change.. .Decomposition begins only when we try to prevent it.. .We would so much like to own, think, or be something static, eternal, and permanent. However, our only eternal possession will be change.. .To attempt to hold fast an instant is doubtful.. .How beautiful it is to be transitory. How lovely it is not to have to live forever.
    • as quoted in: Theories and Documents of Contemporary Art: A Sourcebook of Artists' Writings. ed. Stiles, Kristine and Selz, Peter (LA: University of California Press, 1996), p. 405; Cited in: John D. Powell. Preserving the unpreservable: A study of destruction art in the contemporary museum. University of Leicester, 2007. p. 30
  • So-called immobile objects exist only in movement. Immobile, certain, and permanent things, ideas, works and beliefs change, transform, and disintegrate. Immobile objects are snapshots of a movement whose existence we refuse to accept, because we ourselves are only an instant in the great movement. Movement is the only static, final, permanent, and certain thing. Static means transformation. Let us be static together with movement. Move statically! Be static! Be movement! Believe in movement's static quality. Believe in change. Do not hold onto anything. Change! Do not pinpoint anything! Everything about us is movement. Everything around us is change. Believe in movement's static quality. Be static.
    • reprinted in 'Zero', ed. Otto Piene and Heinz Mack, Cambridge, Mass; MIT Press 1973, p. 119
  • There is no death! Death only exists for those who cannot accept evolution. Everything changes. Death is a transition from movement to movement. Death is static. Death is movement. Death is static. Death is movement.
    • reprinted in 'Zero', ed. Otto Piene and Heinz Mack, Cambridge, Mass; MIT Press 1973, p. 119
  • Be yourself by growing above yourself. Don’t stand in your own way. Let us change with, and not against, movement. Then we shall be static and shall not decompose. Then there will be neither good nor evil, neither beauty nor unsightliness, neither truth nor falsehood. Conceptions are fixations. If we stand still, we block our own path, and we are confronted with our own controversies.
    • reprinted in 'Zero', ed. Otto Piene and Heinz Mack, Cambridge, Mass; MIT Press 1973, p. 119
  • Let us contradict ourselves because we change. Let us be good and evil, true and false, beautiful and loathsome. We are all of these anyway. Let us admit it by accepting movement. Let us be static! Be static!
    • reprinted in 'Zero', ed. Otto Piene and Heinz Mack, Cambridge, Mass; MIT Press 1973, p. 120
  • We are still very much annoyed by out-of-date notions of time. Please, would you throw away your watches! At least toss aside the minutes and hours. Obviously we all realize that we are not everlasting. Our fear of death has inspired the creation of beautiful works of art. And this was a fine thing, too. However, our only eternal possession will be change.
    • reprinted in 'Zero', ed. Otto Piene and Heinz Mack, Cambridge, Mass; MIT Press 1973, p. 120
  • To attempt to hold fast an instant id doubtful.
To bind an emotion is unthinkable.
To petrify love is impossible.
It is beautiful to be transitory.
How lovely it is not to have to live forever.
Luckily there is nothing good and nothing evil.
    • reprinted in 'Zero', ed. Otto Piene and Heinz Mack, Cambridge, Mass; MIT Press 1973, p. 120
  • Time is movement and cannot be checked. Time passes us and rushes on, and we remind behind, old and crumbled. But we are juvenated again and again by static and continuous movement. Let us be transformed! Let us be static! Let us be against stagnation and for static!
    • reprinted in 'Zero', ed. Otto Piene and Heinz Mack, Cambridge, Mass; MIT Press 1973, p. 120

Quotes, 1980's[edit]

  • I wanted something ephemeral, that would pass like a falling star and, most importantly, that would be impossible for museums to reabsorb. I didn't want it to be 'museumised'. The work had to pass by, make people dream and talk, and that would be all, the next day nothing would be left, everything would go back to the garbage bins.
    • Quote of Tinguely in a radio interview (1982), as cited in: 'Violand-Hobi', Heidi G. Jean Tinguely: Life and Work (NY: Prestel, 1995), p. 36 ; Talking about his Homage to New York; Cited in: John D. Powell. (2009, p. 31).
  • With Dada I.. ..have in common a certain mistrust toward power. We don't like authority, we don't like power, To me art is a form of manifest revolt, total and complete. It's a political attitude which doesn't need to found a political party. It's not a matter of taking power; when you are against it, you can't take it. We're against all forms of force which aggregate and crystallize an authority that oppresses people. Obviously this is not a characteristic of my art alone - it's much more general, a basic political attitude. It's a clear intention, more necessary today than ever, to oppose all forms of force emanating from a managing, centralizing political power.
    • Quote from an interview on the Belgian radio, 1982; As cited in: Andersson, Patrik Lars. Euro-pop: the mechanical bride stripped bare in Stockholm, even. (2001). p. 50.
  • During my nightmarish time in a coma, 11 days long, you kept appearing in my dreams, wild, you and Slava, like gypsies & always too late. You were a two-man orchestra & we were always looking for you and waiting for you.
    • In a letter, January 1986; cited in: Jean Tinguely, ‎Margrit Hahnloser-Ingold, ‎Paul Sacher (1996) Briefe von Jean Tinguely an Paul Sacher und Gemeinsame Freunde.

Quotes, 1990's[edit]

  • My ghosts are satisfied.
    • Jean Tinguely (1990); as quoted in: Museum Jean Tinguely Basel, ‎Jean Tinguely, ‎Fritz Gerber (1996) Museum Jean Tinguely Basel. p. 250.
    • This source explains, that Tinguely "wrote in the catalogue, a remark that addresses the elements of movement and hope that are always present in his sculptures. It appears that hopelessness was as foreign to him as it was to his machines."

Quotes about Jean Tinguely[edit]

chronologically ordered, after date of the quotes about Tinguely
  • Jean Tinguely's art is built around the idea of the wheel. The wheel's circular movement is in its continuity an eternal repetition. But it is also an eternal renewal.. .In practical machines the goal is to reduce irregularities as much as possible. Tinguely seeks the opposite. He seeks mechanical disorder. The cogs in his wheels are made as to constantly produce inconsistent chance ridden movement. His connections lack al1 precision except that of chance, his wheels have kept their character as symbols for an eternal transformation. They are chance in function. They are a new and original formulation of Marcel Duchamp's idea to use chance intentionally.. .These new creatures of the art world live in an enviable freedom. They stand outside al1 laws and are not bound by systems. This art exemplifies pure anarchy when it is most beautiful. It is an art which is thoroughly revolutionary, thoroughly dynamic, freer than we could ourselves ever hope to become.. .It is a piece of pure existence, forever changing, that doesn't need to mean or hint at something just as a flower or a rat doesn't have to mean.. But one is mistaken to believe that their artistic message is innocent or harmless. It is, actually, loaded with a freedom like a bomb with trotyl. It is a small latent attack against all established order, it is a symbol for an enormous freedom and should scare all righteous thinkers if they could understand its power. It is a symbol for an absolute, dizzying and unbelievable freedom. It personifies a freedom which otherwise would not exist, and therein lies its value.
    These machines are more anti-machines than machines.. .Military technology and scientific knowledge is constantly a direct threat against Our individual existence.. .Already with Dada we saw a clear skepticism against the technological world. Duchamp's ready-made, the artwork chosen from mass reproduction, contains much irony against machines, and gets its potency not until it is paradoxically freed from its function. As I see it, [Tinguely's work] it represents one of the most conscious expressions for a new type of modem art.. .This art is an anti-social expression. One has to attack machines in their own territory [my italics].. .The weapon of Tinguely's machines is irony.
    • Quote of Pontus Hultén "Den staUforetridande friheten eiler orn Rorelse i konsten och Tinguely's Metamekanik" ("Vicarious Freedom: or Movement in Art and Tinguely's Metamatics") Kasark #2 (October 1955)' pp.26-31; As quoted in: Andersson, Patrik Lars. Euro-pop: the mechanical bride stripped bare in Stockholm, even. (2001). p. 50
  • The immaterial blue colour shown at Iris Clert's in April had in short made me inhuman, had excluded me from the world of tangible reality; I was an extreme element of society who lived in space and who had no means of coming back to earth. Jean Tinguely saw me in space and signaled to me in speed to show me the last machine to take to return to the ephemerality of material life.
    • Quote of Yves Klein 1958; in: Yves Klein, 1928 – 1962, Selected Writings, ed. J & J, the Tate Gallery, London 1974, p. 47
    • About an exhibition, April 1958 at Iris Clert, together with the sculptor Tinguely.
  • [Tinguely is a] Meta-Dadaist.. ..[who had] fulfilled certain ideas of ours, notably the idea of motion.
    • Quote of Richard Huelsenbeck (1961), quoted in Calvin Tomkins (1965) Ahead of the game: four versions of avant-garde. p. 160
  • [something like] a badly constructed or repaired motor, or like that wonderful event of Tinguely, where he made a huge contraption in the backyard of the Museum of Modern Art called 'Homage to New York'[1], which was a machine that destroyed itself in various humorous ways. It's that breakdown system along with slippages that you can't predict I find most interesting, not because I want to make a point about society as being a broken down system or that all life is entropic — I don't, but rather that its process is unforeseeable.
    • Quote of Allan Kaprow, in an interview with Robert C. Morgan, 1991; in the 'Journal of Contemporary Art, 4', no. 2, p. 56-69
  • On one level, the machines that he created are devised to instill fear in the spectator; on another level, his machines sought to fill the spectator with astonishment or admiration. As the machines grew larger, filling up the space of the exhibition room, their movements became increasing complex. In 1966, artists pursued the creating of architectural environments for experiments in optical and kinetic technology.
    • ACM multimedia 2000: proceedings. ACM. Special Interest Group on Multimedia (2000). p. 19

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