Ø 400 cm, Height 120 cm

For the spacious foyer of the Cologne Gesundheitsamt I built the mobile MAR AZUL which helps to lighten the mood of the visitors.
Video (Marazul.wmv, 772 KB)

AFRIKA (detail):

Ø 400 cm, Height 350 cm


I built the mobile AFRIKA for the 13m high foyer of the new Primary School in Koerich/Luxembourg. It reaches across two floors and has been designed to relax and centre pupils who often use the hall during break-time.
Video (Afrika.wmv, 319 KB; RTL)

Floating Motion

When everything goes right a mobile is a piece of poetry that dances with the joy of life and surprises*

Mobiles are a form of 20th century kinetic sculpture. Originating in the art of Man Ray (*1890), they emerged in the sphere of surrealism and abstraction and reached their stylistic apogee in Alexander Calder's work (*1898). In contemporary art, they are, however, rarely seen. With 63 coat hangers hanging down from the ceiling, Man Ray's readymade Obstruction from 1920 paved the way for a new genre. In 1932, on the occasion of the Calder exhibition at Galerie Vignon in Paris, Marcel Duchamp prompted Calder to use the term mobile for the newly created mobile objects of painted wooden, metal or tin shapes connected by wire. Calder's definition of the mobile: "Nothing of all this is stable. Every element is mobile, floating, swinging, moving and swaying between its relations to other elements of the universe. It is not just a fleeting moment, but a physical law of variation between the events of life." Calder developed two types: mobiles, hanging freely from the ceiling on thin threads, and sculptural stabile-mobiles or mobile-stabiles, which stand on the ground and are defined depending on their proportion of stability and mobility. The 'symbolic functioning' of the mobiles and of their single elements reveals an almost unconfined variety of constellations. They could easily have sprung from paintings by Arp or Miró. Sometimes the elements resemble bird-like creatures that sit down and 'sing in multicoloured shades': "A mobile is a small, locally restricted festival, an object defined only by its motion, one which would not exist without this motion…, it is a pure variety of motion, just as there is a pure variety of light." (Jean-Paul Sartre, 1946).

Another central figure in the field of mobiles is George Rickey (*1907), one generation later and with constructivist background. Strongly influenced by Moholy-Nagy in Chicago, he began to experiment with his first mobiles from about 1945 onwards. His rod- or spear-like objects, set in motion by airstreams and wind, such as the six meters high Two Lines Up (2002) in Essen, are significantly more technoid. They consist of steel, become mobile by means of ball-bearings, dampers and leaden counterweights. Contrary to Calder's works, their colour remains steely, yet smoothed, brightly polished and stainless: "Motion is my colour".

Monika Kämmer (*1947) is a qualified Ikebana teacher of the Sogetsu School. With regard to the history of the genre as well as to her Far Eastern inspiration and training, she has for several years endeavoured a new interpretation of the mobile, using modern, contemporary materials. With her mobiles she draws nearer to Calder's playful works than to the technoid type. This is not only due to her favoured colourfulness, but also to the formal proximity to the Far East, which Calder, too, was reputed for. The sparing use of forms, the outward modesty, and the resting, purposeful purposelessness of movement, the discreet and slow yet extensive mobility, the affinity for the asymmetric, eccentric, and the unstable balance are all results of meditation and contemplation - a work is composed in the head, not on the drawing board. All of these are underlying and distinct characteristics of her mobiles.

The Sogetsu School in Tokyo, which Monika Kämmer chose for her artistic training, is one of Japan's avant-garde Ikebana schools. It was founded by Teshigahara Sofu about 80 years ago. As every other Ikebana school, the Sogetsu School wants to encourage its students to create arrangements of twigs and flowers in the spirit of Ikebana. In some respects, however, its activities reach far beyond that, mainly with regard to the choice of themes and materials. Apart from plants, they use sheet metal, plastic, stones, cloth, wire, paper or everyday objects as materials. Large arrangements and installations make for extensive use of space. The Ikebana artist's free creation in the environment allows him to personalize nature, by cutting trees and flowers in special ways, and thus to move forward in an autonomous sphere of art.

Monika Kämmer's works consist of intensely coloured Plexiglas and aluminium. The single elements are connected with each other in such a way, that even the slightest current of air sets the whole mobile in motion. This is where she differs from Calder, who connected the elements with wire or light metal rods and thus somewhat prevented an entirely free mobility. Despite their frequently large formats, her works are of fragile appearance, designed for interiors, for light motion. They bear titles that reflect what they portray. Their abstract and mobile openness could, however, suggest completely different titles.

News, Good News could simply relate to good news, but as well to new, different and changing constellations of motion within the mobile. The Tor-Mobiles [gate mobiles] in various heights and sizes refer to a restricted space of meditation, freedom (of movement) and rest - beyond the gate.

Various works tend towards the abstract, the visible. The mobiles Fernsehen [television] and Traum [dream] consist of only two Plexiglas shapes connected with each other, which reveal a head in plane profile. Watching TV, the face has obviously assumed a disoriented position within the abundance of shallow opinions.

The mobiles Aspekte, Woge, Schnelles Wasser, Kirchplatz, and Hoffnung are extremely abstract. The Plexiglas panes were partly reshaped on the surface by means of drillings, omissions, and additional Plexiglas forms, which produce both polymorphic and multicoloured appearances of the element. Mirror effects, brought about by the use of polished aluminium, increase the lightness and airiness of many of the works.

Although Monika Kämmer forms abstract ideas with great strictness regarding contours and choice of format, her mobiles are carried by a deep, individual and vivid sensitivity. Characteristic of her work are clear, swinging contours connected with manifold and variously interpretable geometric forms. They are partially cellular, full of contrasts, rhythms and tensions, they are spacious yet not massive, but always full of transparency.

Monika Kämmer lives and works in Blindert, a small village in the Eifel region of Germany. Since 1996 she has regularly participated in exhibitions. Her mobiles are publicly displayed in Germany and Luxemburg and are represented in several private collections. Furthermore, she is a member of the Sogetsu Teachers Association and the Kinetic Art Organization KINETICUS.

du / 2004
Dirk Ufermann / Bonn

* Alexander Calder