Hans Kooi calling nature to order

Movement has developed into an individual artistic discipline today. The expressiveness of kinetic works of art allows for ample variation: from pure gentle movement to the spectacular scrap machine [...]

Thus Paul Wember in his introduction to a 1963 exhibition at the Krefeld museum under the title “Bewegte Bereiche der Kunst”. After decades of want of appreciation, kinetic art had become the in thing to produce and/or like.

Movement and technology as an art form

Movement, as a true phenomenon and an optic illusion, had entered art history. Although as an art form this recognition was to open less new vistas than had images-in-time. The mobile or movable object in which the forces of nature and technology were being manipulated and that spoke a geometric or organic formal language, never made the breakthrough everybody expected it to make.

Technology, as one of the many ways of expressing intuition and formal control, suffered from the increasing number of doubts people had about technological progress, against which certain objections had indeed been raised. As a result, the dramatic, optimistic and sometimes even ‘scientific’ aspect of kinetic objects was pushed into the background.

Painting and sculpture made their way into the personal vision, the memory and reflection of a personalistic culture once again. For all that, the attainments of kinetic art remain valid today, both on a theoretical and a tangible level.

Intuition starts from movement, moots it as a subject, or – to be more precise – perceives it as a reality itself and considers immobility an abstract movement that has been ‘stolen’ from something mobile by our perception. (Bergson)

Art from different angles

In other words: the kinetic work of art strengthen the intuitive impressions of the contemplator and provides the maker with an effective means of expressing and reflecting his own intentions. This principle is what Hans Kooi deals with, in a subtle way. The works of art from different angles; a characteristic that is inherent to sculpture.

Irrespective of the formal language he uses, they make us want to touch them - much more so than traditional sculptures, constructions or stable objects. Although they are not auto-motive (i.e. driven by the wind or an engine), we feel they must be mobile. The two seemingly unconnected rhyming forms we see hanging from the ceiling on a rope have to be mobile, that much is sure. We will soon find out in what way, in fact, by simply touching them and seeing the plastic form hurrying back to its initial position.

Natural magnetism

To our surprise the means Kooi uses seems to be a magnetic field. A technical principle has tickled our imagination, made us want to touch things, because our eyes could not find the answer to settle the question. This way, Hans Kooi opposes the matter of technology (of magnetic fields) to what we experience as natural and sends us back to square one.

The forms he comes up with are organic, parallel to nature, although they have been abstracted from it. The natural or black (painted) wood he uses has the shape of fleshy leaves the natural construction of which has been copied from exotic trees. Both natural and preeminently unnatural – that is the essence of this quiet yet manipulatively formal world; the dream of the citizen who transforms what is left of nature to suit his own interior, where technology is king.

Reconciling technology with nature

The poetry of nature becomes an urban miracle thanks to the addition of artificial magnetic fields. In this sense, Hans Kooi’s works express a spirit that is very much alive today. Even though they may come to us as mere constructions of leaning, mutually supporting, crossing beams which either attract or repel one another. Technology has become part of our life; nature is our main worry and what we seem to be longing for. To use both in a way that makes this contradiction perceptible and changes it into an aesthetic reality, is to reconcile technology with nature.

In these works of art, technology and cultivated nature self-evidently link hands. The dividing line between what is naturally impossible and technically possible disappears. Thanks to an artifice, we realize how well matched the two are. People whose intuition will be disturbing a certain order, will know that technology has called nature to order. Which, as a subject, is highly topical in today’s culture.