5,000 Moving Parts

On view through November 2014

Moving Movement in 1961: Amsterdam and Stockholm


The MIT Libraries borrowed Bewogen Beweging (“Moving Movement”), a 52 year old exhibition catalogue, for me a couple of weeks ago. In 1961, Bewogen Beweging opened at Amsterdam’s Stedlijk Museum, where it ran for only six weeks, and then moved to the Moderna Museet in Stockholm, where the exhibition’s curator, K. G. Pontus Hulten, was the Director.

The cover of the catalogue depicts Marcel Duchamp's bicycle wheel and one of his roto-reliefs. Printed in black and blue on cream colored stock that has almost certainly darkened since it was published, the catalogue is two and half feet tall but only four inches wide, with an extensive historical essay gatefolded and bound into the back cover. Reading through the catalogue is a little like playing an accordion. But the design worked really well when I spread it out on a table and peered into it – once again forcing me to engage with kinetic art by getting up and moving.

The catalogue opens with statements by a huge variety of artists and other thinkers, including the Futurist Manifesto, quotes from Alexander Calder, and an admonition from John R. Pierce, who (among many other accomplishments) proposed the design for the first US telecommunications satellites, coined the term “transistor,” and worked on Stanley Kubrick’s film 2001: A Space Odyssey (here’s a 1968 New York Times interview with Kubrick about the film). Quoting Pierce: "Artists, regard not machines with awe or trepidation!”

They didn’t.

As shown in the massive exhibition, Allan Kaprow, Robert Breer, Calder, Naum Gabo, Heinz Mack, Moholy-Nagy, Otto Piene, Robert Rauschenberg, Oscar Schlemmer, Vassilakis Takis, Jean Tinguely, Stan Vanderbeek, Marcel Duchamp, Victor Vasarely and many many other artists worked with, for, over, under, and through machines to make art.

I was taken by the simplicity of the catalogue and by its boldness. The librarians had a hard time finding it when I arrived at the Reading Room to fetch it, until one of them said to look for something shaped like a baguette. Pontus Hulten was responsible for other, more elaborate, exhibition catalogues (see, for example, the metal-covered catalogue for the MoMA exhibition The Machine As Seen at the End of the Mechanical Age) but this one took courage. It looks like almost nothing, in the weirdest possible way.

The image of the Bewogen Beweging catalogue is from the site Luiscius Antiquarian Booksellers, accessed June 14, 2013.

For recent comments on the intriguing poster for the Swedish installation of Bewogen Beweging, see Julia Zeltser’s article on DesignEnvy. The poster was designed by Dieter Roth. It’s on view now in an exhibition at MoMA: Wait, Later This Will Be Nothing: Editions by Dieter Roth.


     Site Design: Paul Montie