Flyers over Düsseldorf

Jean Tinguely’s first solo exhibition in Germany opened in Düsseldorf on 30 January 1959. The venue was the Galerie Schmela, an art gallery that Alfred Schmela had inaugurated in 1957 with the show Yves Propositions monochromes. It was again Yves Klein who gave the opening address at La collaboration entre artitistes créateurs, while Nusch Bremer, Claus Bremer and Daniel Spoerri recited a ‘simultaneous poem’. Each read from a scrolled text that moved so fast that he had to be selective about what he read; and because the three texts were read simultaneously, they became acoustically intermingled.
The first was called tinguely hat zwei katzen and began: ‘tinguely hat zwei katzen. Tinguelys frau hat auch zwei katze und einen mann. Ich erinnere mich daran, dass tinguely und ich einmal eine vollautomatische kaffeemaschine gebaut haben. Es gibt dinge die ihm gleichgültig sind und solche, die ihm nicht gleichgültig sind.’ (Tinguely has two cats. Tinguely’s wife also has two cats and one husband. I remember how Tinguely and I once built a fully automatic coffee machine. There are things that are indifferent to him and things that are not indifferent to him.) The second text was called die apparate von tinguely and began: ‘die apparate von tinguely bewegen sich in der realität. Die apparate von jean tinguely werden von einem motor angetrieben, der real ist. Auch apparate, die nicht von jean tinguely sind, bewegen sich. Auch apparate, die nicht von jean tinguely sind, bewegen sich in der realität. Auch apparate, die nicht von jean tinguely sind, werden von einem motor angetrieben, der real ist.’ (Tinguely’s machines move in reality. Tinguely’s machines are driven by a motor that is real. Machines that are not by Tinguely also move. Machines that are not by Tinguely also move in reality. Machines that are not by Tinguely are driven by a motor that is real.) The third text was called elementarbausteine der materie (Elements of Matter). The opening of the exhibition was celebrated with a three-day-long party at Günter Uecker’s studio. That fancy-dress party, which went by the motto Extase in Farbe (Ecstasy in Colour), also happens to be where Uecker and Otto Piene first met.

Jean Tinguely, Für Statik, handout, March 1959, Archive Museum Tinguely, Basel

Jean Tinguely, Für Statik, handout, March 1959, Archive Museum Tinguely, Basel

Shortly after the exhibition closed, on 14 March 1959, Tinguely scattered his Für Statik manifesto from a plane circling over Düsseldorf – or so the story goes. The manifesto was certainly distributed in Düsseldorf, though whether this was done from the air is not certain. What is not in doubt is the manifesto’s programmatic text:

‘Everything is in motion, nothing ever stands still. Don’t let yourselves be ruled by outdated concepts of time. Get rid of hours, seconds, minutes. Stop resisting mutability. BE ONE WITH TIME – BE STATIC, BE STATIC – WITH MOVEMENT. For stasis in the NOW that is happening now. Resist the anxious loss of nerve about stopping what is in motion, turning instants to stone and killing what is alive. Stop constantly setting up “values” that then fall in on themselves. Be free, live!

‘Stop “painting” time. Leave off building cathedrals and pyramids that crumble away like confectionery. Breathe deeply. Live in the now. Live on and in time. For a beautiful and absolute reality!’

Düsseldorf, March 1959


The third edition of ZERO magazine was launched with a spectacle called ZERO: Edition, Exposition, Demonstration inside and in front of Galerie Schmela on 5 July 1961. The spectacle conceived by Mack, Piene and Uecker (who would henceforth embody the ZERO group), addressed all the senses and was like a cross between street party, performance, environment and exhibition. The third (and last) edition of ZERO DYNAMO was dedicated to the artists of the European Zero network and began with a sequence of paintings about Lucio Fontana (as catalyst and model) followed by Dynamo Yves Klein (all the artists’ names were preceded with a ‘dynamo’) and Dynamo Tinguely. The latter also printed the text, which was read aloud – or rather reeled off a tape recorder – at Art, Machines and Motion: A Lecture by Jean Tinguely at the ICA in London on 12 November 1959. Next came a description of Homage to New York, the self-destructing machine at MoMA, New York, recorded by the Swedish engineer Billy Klüver, and the patent specification for Tinguely’s drawing machines. The purpose of this extensive presentation, which was supplemented by photos of the artist and his machine sculptures, was to underscore the importance of Tinguely to ZERO.

Düsseldorf and Galerie Schmela remained important to Tinguely and he again had solo exhibitions there in 1976, 1984 (when the opening was attended by Joseph Beuys) and 1989. It was at his last exhibition at Galerie Schmela that Tinguely presented his Philosophen, und andere Schreckgespenster.

Image credits: Jean Tinguely in an aeroplane with the Manifesto Für Statik, Düsseldorf, 1959 © bpk / Charles Wilp