Filed under catalogue | Tags: · art, machine, media archeology, technology
Catalogue of an exhibition on Bratislava-born 18th-century author, polyhistor and inventor of the chess-player automaton and the speaking machine, Wolfgang von Kempelen, organized by the C3 Foundation and ZKM Karlsruhe, held in Műcsarnok / Kunsthalle, Budapest, on 24 March – 28 May 2007, and curated by József Mélyi and Rita Kálmán.
“The history of the chess-player automaton of Wolfgang von Kempelen (1734 – 1804) and its legend have engaged artists, scientists and laymen for centuries. Now, more than two hundred years after von Kempelen ’s death, the joint exhibition of C3 Foundation and the ZKM in Karlsruhe, setting the two outstanding mechanical inventions of the polyhistor – the chess-player automaton and the speaking machine – at the centre, attempts to focus not only on the most enduring memories of his almost unfathomably far-reaching career. Alongside the portrayal of von Kempelen as scientist, engineer, artist, showman, civil servant and private individual, the exhibition broadens the picture onto the Court of Maria Theresa and Joseph II, the mechanical inventions of the epoch, the invention of the era of invention, the Freemasonry movement, and the Turk- and puppet-mania of the century.
Even though we are separated from von Kempelen ’s world by more than two hundred years, we can still recognise the similarities between that atmosphere of scientific discoveries constantly outbidding each other, with technical and technological innovations appearing in the second half of the 18th century, and the multifariousness of art forms, and our own present.
The other aim of the exhibition is the elaboration of the history of innovative thinking, and the presentation of elements of technical and conceptual history inspired by von Kempelen and his mechanisms. Alongside the historical correlations, the show presents contemporary media artworks – in part, commissioned specifically for this occasion – that, taking the sphere of thought of von Kempelen ’s inventions as their point of departure, discover the relationship between the ideas of the Enlightenment and the questions of the present day. ” (source)
Publisher C3 Foundation, Budapest, 2007