Kinetic Sculpture and the Fourth Dimension
A new semester means a slew of new thesis discoveries. In meeting with Marc last week, we decided that my main interests were in creativity and the imagination, and the utopia that exists within those. I’m interested in promoting creativity and the imagination through education, so Marc suggested that I examine the programmatic layout of the Bauhaus and refigure its pedagogical structure in order to create a utopian architecture school.
In diagramming the Bauhaus, I realized that the program could be simplified into these categories: learning, administering, assembling, making, and living. My first instinct in refiguring the program toward utopia was the idea of system, where each activity is influential to the next and all operate in perfect harmony, like a well-oiled machine. Nate said that this sounded like a very socialist ideal, but I began to think about systems or machines of architecture.
I remembered one machine I saw in Germany, which consists of 6 arms holding yellow pieces, that orbit around each other to bring the yellow pieces into the center, and form a little yellow chair. I tried to remember why I was so drawn to this work, and I realized in the moments that the arms are outstretched, there’s wonder as to what the yellow pieces are and if they form anything. It is a disrupted object that stimulates imagination in its fragments.
I further researched this machine from Germany and found that it is by Arthur Ganson, a kinetic sculptor or gestural engineer. He makes machines that do nothing, but feels that once the machine is perceived and someone brings it into their own mind, it can be anything. It turns out all of Arthur’s kinetic sculptures are on display at the MIT Museum, so I went there on Tuesday and interacted with them.
I realized also that my fixation with these machines relates back to my fixation with Constructivism and Suprematism. Constructivists and Suprematists were both interested in kinetic sculpture because it embodied the fourth dimension. Many say that the fourth dimension is time, but it actually just allows the third dimension to change and move, as in space-time. An example of this is in Rodchenko’s spatial constructions, where the form perpetually changes. In physics, the fourth dimension is described as any space that is perpendicular to a cube, but most of us cannot visualize this concept. Thus in art, it exists in kinetic sculpture. From a 2012 article in Universitas, “This ever-changing sculpture illustrates a major fourth dimensional concept, which was that the fourth dimension was completely beyond all possible imagination and one could only ever envision fragments of that dimension.”
To bring this back to the Bauhaus, much of this theory was happening during the time of Kandinsky’s teaching there, which sought the reconstruction of “form” in arts such as painting, sculpting, music, and theater. A spatial fourth dimension had already worked its way into popular literature, such as H.G. Well’s The Time Machine (coincidentally, a dystopian novel). Because the concepts of the fourth dimension have been so influential to the arts, I changed the program of the Bauhaus to a Performing Arts center, with the idea that each art can influence the others. In terms of site, I was thinking this project could exist in a scaleless wormhole within the Bauhaus, or another institutional building like the Carpenter Center. I think this whole time I’ve been using utopia as an imagined place, but I think instead the fourth dimension is a more accurate term. “Utopia” means “imagined place” and in this case, the imagined place is the fourth dimension.