Art: Kinetic exhibits a moving experience

Attendees enjoy Light Being by Kimon Fotiadis at the 2019 International Kinetic Art Exhibit & Symposium. Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star

By Ron Hayes

All great art moves the viewer. But not all great art moves.
Great kinetic art does both.
Over the weekend of Feb. 2-3, nearly 8,000 viewers came to downtown Boynton Beach to be moved by the city’s fourth biennial International Kinetic Art Exhibit & Symposium.
They saw jellyfish, fashioned of silk and plastic, dance in the air above their heads. They heard guitar notes played by the sun. They reflected on their “treeness.”
In all, they saw 40 art installations in a 40-by-60-foot tent at the corner of East Ocean Avenue and Federal Highway, four “interactive art experiences” on the grounds, and a dozen more sculptures situated throughout the city.
“We’re the kinetic city,” boasted Debby Coles-Dobay, who as its public art manager has steered the festival since its debut in 2013. “In 2017, we had 4,000 visitors and I’d say we’ve doubled that this year.”
The weekend costs about $100,000 to stage, Coles-Dobay said. An ordinance collects a 1 percent fee on development within in the city, of which 30 percent supports public art programs such as this festival. That money is supplemented by grants, sponsorships and in-kind contributions, Coles-Dobay said.
Plus, the 40 tireless volunteers who make it all possible.
Kinetic art, from the Greek word kinein, meaning “to move,” is a sculpture or assembly with mechanical parts that can be set in motion.
Light Being, by Kimon Fotiadis, for example.
Step inside a small tent and watch as oversized jellyfish rise and fall gracefully, while lighting effects and ghostly music complete the illusion.
“Jellyfish are 5 percent matter and 95 percent water,” said Fotiadis, who traveled from Brussels, Belgium, after learning about the festival online. “I like to combine art and technology.”
Not far away, John Endmark of Stanford, Calif., had viewers bending closer and frowning with puzzled delight. His Aspire Bloom was inspired by cactus and succulents but created by a 3D printer and lit from within. Spinning on a computer-controlled turntable at 900 revolutions per minute beneath a strobe light flashing 40 times a second, the sculpture bloomed and shrank, seemingly alive and certainly kinetic.
Bruce Brown of Lake Worth’s Marble Toy #9 is a 6-foot-tall tower of wood and copper wire that, powered by a microchip, sends 32 marbles rolling down and climbing up its height, seemingly by falling into random paths.
“But it’s not really random,” Brown said with a smile.
Outside, Craig Colorusso, of Rogers, Ariz., presided over 20 speakers, each powered by the sun and programmed to play a single guitar note.
Don Russ of Lake Park was impressed. “With kinetic art, you tend to get a lot of math,” he said, “so you have random notes that blend together and create three-dimensional space.”
An engineer with Crossmatch, a Palm Beach Gardens firm that makes fingerprint scanners, Russ never misses the festival. “We put it on the calendar.”
Meanwhile, beneath a mammoth banyan tree in nearby Dewey Park, festival regular Elayna Toby Singer asked about 25 men, women and children to contemplate how much they have in common with that glorious tree.
Every participant was given a “balance bag,” filled with goodies to help them find that elusive balance between themselves and nature.
“Reflect on your treeness,” Singer told them.
Then she had each create a “manifestation mobile” of mahogany seed pods strung on nylon fishing line adorned with a quarter-size mirror at one end.
“What does a mirror symbolize?” she asked. “Self-reflection and bringing the environment into focus.”
Next, they wrote their “intentions for balance” on a strip of ribbon and tied it to the mobiles like a kite tail.
The mobiles were to be taken home as a reminder to care for both themselves and trees.
Judging was by the visitors themselves, who voted for People’s Choice awards after viewing the exhibits.
Not surprisingly, Jon Endmark’s Aspire Bloom won the indoor exhibit award.
Craig Colorusso’s Sun Boxes took the “art experience” prize, and Dude a l’eau Dudali, by Beju LeJobart, won the outdoor exhibit prize.
And Karen Davis of Boynton Beach gave the festival the finest award of all.
“It’s nicer than SunFest because it’s every other year,” she said, “so it leaves you wanting more.”