Material / technique: Scrap iron and pipes, aluminium wheel, electric motor
Size: 160 x 106 x 61 cm
Catalog: Bischofberger 0816
Creditline: Museum Tinguely, Basel, Donation Niki de Saint Phalle
In the years 1987 to 1990, Jean Tinguely created figures portraying people who, in his words, “helped me in my youth to think and inspired me“.
The idea for a gallery of ancestors goes back to the preparations for the 1988 retrospective at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris. For this exhibition the artist created a large sculpture in memory of his prematurely deceased fellow artist and friend from his early years in Paris, calling it “Dernière Collaboration avec Yves Klein”. This homage to his philosopher friend heralded a whole series of kinetic junk assemblages, all of which display zoomorphic or anthropomorphic forms and human dimensions and sport the names of illustrious thinkers, scientists, role models or friends. In this unconventional portrait gallery we encounter figures such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Friedrich Engels, Jakob Burckhardt, Henri Bergson, Piotr Kropotkin and Martin Heidegger – outstanding personalities of Western culture and society. For Tinguely they had a very personal significance as he had read many of their writings. The fact that – as so often with Tinguely – his artworks were not always meant to be taken too seriously is demonstrated by the way in which he left lasting memorials not only to great wisemen but also for example to Frank Wedekind, the author of satirical ballads.
One can certainly view this series of works with their in some cases helplessly, aimlessly and futilely acting figures as the artist’s tongue-in-cheek critique of an attitude that places the highest value on speculative thinking remote from everyday reality. For Tinguely by contrast, as is demonstrated by his works from the 1960s onward, aimless play was also a central and indispensable part of life.