The Van Abbemuseum Collection consists of over 2800 artworks. We publish texts and images on an ongoing basis, but this record is currently in the process of being documented.
The machine 'Char M.K.' by Jean Tinguely is made of scrap metal, a sheet of wood, wheels, v-shaped wires and systems of ballbearings. The whole work is painted a matt black. The machine has an electric motor which can be can be operated by the publicby pressing a button. Then the machine drives to and fro on the pedestal, squealing and creaking. A large arch-shaped sheet of wood moves up and down.
Tinguely was born in Switzerland and moved to Paris in 1953 where he was already making objects that could move. In 1960, the art critic Pierre Restany published the manifesto “Les Nouveaux Réalistes” and also founded a group of artists with that name. In addition to Tinguely this included Arman, Christo, César and Spoerri. Like the Pop Art artists in America and England, the nouveau réalistes used everyday products from people’s daily lives as the starting point for their work. Pop Art above all used contemporary consumer articles as a subject; in nouveaux réalisme they are used directly as material. In addition, some of the techniques already introduced by the Dadaists, such as collages, assemblage and ready-made products, were also used. Waste products were particularly popular as the basis for artworks, and they were stacked, compressed, wrapped up or glued together.
Tinguely was fascinated by machines and saw them as a symbol for modern existence. They could provide comfort, but could also be threatening when they took over power from people. Tinguely’s machines were also like creatures. He explained: “They’re free, ok, they’re merry, but they’re also desperate. They are condemned to constantly make the same movement in a sort of limited area.” You can see them as a metaphor for contemporary human existence, for the individual who has only limited freedom within the community. Tinguely’s machines also mocked the moral value of labour and making an effort. In connection with his own work, he referred to “the uselessness of mad machines which do not serve any purpose…” Tinguely made ironic comments on industrial society, but also expected his work to provoke a response.
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