A study into the history and evolution of movement as an art medium.
Kinetic art is the use of movement as an additional medium and/or extra dimension for representation. It is this area which I will focus on here, attempting to historically contextualise this medium and continue into how it has evolved to the present.
As a form of non-constructive entertainment this form of representation began with the Heron of Alexandria, born in 75AD, whom devised machines to perform religious magic; as a person entered, the temple doors opened by themselves, holy water rained down, and bronze birds opened their beaks to sing. Robot priests continued to appear to perform incredible miracles by placing their hands into sacred flames, blessing them to finally put them out via water that dripped from their hands.
Most of this type of automata from then on was made primarily for public or private entertainment. Further examples can be seen from work in the sixteenth century by Leonardo da Vinci, whom devised a lion for Francis I as simply a clever object for the distraction of the court. This lion could walk towards the king and open its mouth to reveal a blanket of white lilies on a blue ground. As technology became more advanced work became increasingly complex as the creation from Jacques de Vaucanson in the eighteenth century can attest. This mechanism was in the form of a duck which was articulated by 400 moving parts. It could chatter, eat, digest and was able to waddle, to the great delight of the audience whom travelled from all over Europe.
This use of automata seemed to mainly continue in this manner, exclusive to the notions within art until the 1950s:
“Since the early 1950s, the number of artists who devote their talents to this kind of art has greatly increased. At the same time, under the impact of new visual experiences, of modern conceptions of aspects of nature and of man, and of novel techniques provided by science and technology, the scope of kinetic art itself has expanded.
Even though, from this period on, there was a large fluctuation in the use of movement within art, and that the ‘Kinetic art’ movement had actually been realised by the art establishment, it was still not taken seriously in comparison to other such movements as Minimal, Conceptual and Pop art of the same period. One explanation of interest that I found was stated in an essay titled ‘The Century of Kinesthesia’ which posed the notion that, “The static image in which a kinetic work survives may be the very antithesis of its nature.”
One collective whom stand out in the 1960s are the Fluxus group, which were an international network of artists, composers and designers noted for blending different artistic media and disciplines. Their experimentation seemed to publicize this idea of using non-static mediums in which to represents abstract artistic notions. After the death of George Maciunas in 1978, the original organiser of the first event in 1961, the movement was seen by most as ended. However more recently the influence of Fluxus can be seen directly within multi-media digital art, the subject closest to my field of study:
“Digital art is an umbrella term for a range of artistic works and practices that utilize digital technology. Since the 1970s various names have been used to describe what is now called digital art including computer art and multimedia art but digital art is itself placed under the larger umbrella term new media art.
The impact of digital technology has transformed traditional activities such as painting, drawing and sculpture, while new forms, such as net art, digital installation art, and virtual reality, have become recognized artistic practices. More generally the term digital artist is used to describe an artist who makes use of digital technologies in the production of art. In an expanded sense, "digital art" is a term applied to contemporary art that uses the methods of mass production or digital media.”
 Kinetic art: Theory and practice, Frank J. Malina
 The Century of Kinesthesia, Guy Brett (Published in force fields: phases of the kinetic 2000)