Takis at the MIT Museum
“When I use a found object, a piece of some machine, it is to get away from art and nearer invisible forces.” Vassilakis Takis, in Peter Selz, ed. Directions in Kinetic Sculpture, exhibition catalogue, University Art Gallery, University of California, Berkeley, 1966.
The MIT Museum Collection includes an important piece by the sculptor Takis, whose influential works using electromagnetism led many other artists to think about the possibilities of art that makes invisible physical forces visible. Takis was in residence at MIT for two years in the 1960s. This is a short version of a research report that I wrote last fall about the MIT Museum’s Takis sculpture, in hopes that it might be included in 5000 Moving Parts:
“Electro-Magnetic I” is from a series of similar sculptures created by the artist Vassilak is Takis in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Takis, who was born in Athens in 1925, began making sculptural works in 1946. He became a Fellow at the Center for Advanced Visual Studies at MIT in 1968 and continued his Fellowship into 1969.
In 1954, Takis began to develop works using electromagnetism, including the “Electro-Magnetic” series and numerous works designated “Signals.” The “Signals” sculptures were inspired by a long wait for a train to Paris, when Takis became fascinated by the signaling mechanisms that controlled train traffic. He spent several hours drawing the mechanisms while waiting at the station, and soon afterward he began making magnetic sculptures based on the drawings.
Takis’ interest in invisible forces extended to the uses of political power. In a now famous 1960 performance, Takis briefly suspended the British poet Sanford Beiles in a magnetic field in a Paris gallery, thereby “send(ing) first a man in space before the Russians.” The action took place six months before the Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin was launched into space, and for Takis it remained a point of pride that the first “man in space” was his magnetically suspended poet.
There is much more to know about Takis career, so I’ve listed a few sources of additional information. We don’t know yet if the MIT Museum’s Takis' work will be OK to exhibit. More on that soon, I hope.
- Wayne Andersen, Takis; Evidence of the Unseen, 1968.
- Artworkers Coalition: 1969 January, February, March, April Documents. http://www.primaryinformation.org/
- Jack Burnham, Beyond Modern Sculpture: The Effects of Science and Technology on the Sculpture of this Century, 1968.
- Nicolas Calas, “Takis Magnetic Attraction: New Works at Howard Wise,” Arts Magazine, February, 1969.
- Grace Glueck, “Art: Whirring and Quivering Aplenty. Electronic Sculpture of Takis at Wise Gallery,” New York Times, February 8, 1969.
- Katherine Kuh, “Recent Kinetic Art,” Gyorgy Kepes ed., The Nature and Art of Motion, 1965.
- David Medalla, ed., “Magnetic Manifesto,” Signals, October-November, 1964. C
- Vassilakis Takis, Estafilades, Paris: René Julliard, 1961.
- Vassilakis Takis, “L’Impossible: un homme dans l’espace,” Laura Knott and Bernd Kracke, eds., Sky Art Conference 2002, published in 2004.
- Howard Wise, Takis: Magnetic Fields, 1970.