By Michel Baudson, Panamarenko (Paris: Flammarion, 1996).
The Ethics of Utopia
"I am only interested by the diverging conscience because only in it we can find utopic energies."
Utopia experimented as pure experience, as basic parallel research, free from the need to be efficient, links that which is possible to the impossible through the practice of calculations, whether parallel or not, whose poetical result allows the meeting of science and art as an "interconnection of fields of knowledge."
Thanks to the energy of its difference, utopia generates beauty, amplifies the artistic dimension, revitalizes emotion. According to Jean-Cristophe Aeschlimann "this is the place where an unmotivated, unprecedented answer, and where the possibility of questioning is delineated," an unprecedented answer, in which the principles of knowledge and the plans for change are diverted from the established forms and the redundant conclusions that derive from antagonistic references between art and science; it goes beyond the statement by Merleau-Ponty according to whom "science manipulates things and refuses to inhabit them." The "unthinkable rationality" - Heidegger's definition of art - became an ethical practice that gives room to overcome the reciprocal misunderstandings after having denounced the dichotomy as an "official non-sense."
Therefore, utopia becomes a rationality that can be thought, liberated from the burden of declared impossibilities and accepted alienation, but also "lacking any tragic tension," as Hans Theys correctly observed.
In reality, beginning with Flugzeug Panamarenko took off, attaining a height much higher than the burden of tragedy. Sitting in his saddle - apt symbol of the movement for freedom - he was already engaged in a dialogue with the calculations that elevate. Therefore, he refuses the omnipotence of the steam-horse invented by an industrial revolution that had given preference to speeches on coded freedom rather than to the language of autonomous man. His first step gave way to this "happy knowledge," that he has been steadily enlarging since then - in the amusement of his individual gravitation. He never again will use the established iconography - that of the status quo, of repetition, of copying and imitation - nor the primeval technology that has the struggle for power and the violence that comes in its wake as its sole objective.
As the artistic play happens a posteriori to the freedom allowed by utopia, Panamarenko can "amuse himself" as his practice of experience is still exclusively interested in unforeseen answers; he knows that without the play or the danger of fortune only autonomous experiences can occur. It is by experiencing randomness, independent of that which is programmed - that Panamarenko is able to give an answer to that which is unforeseen in the world. He refuses to put knowledge on rails and does not follow the codes of the information highways.
No doubt Panamarenko had his reasons not to focus on trains, which program space-time outside the sphere of any individual gravitation, as a means of locomotion: for him to think that to safeguard his freedom he must derail would be an outrageously violent absurdity.
In the way that the dream-wandering found its way to an ethic of autonomy and the project of the self reached the point of universal questioning.
This is where we find today that which fascinates us, and this difference continues, more than 30 years after his first experiments, to steadily grow in relation to the systems and consequences of the artistic establishment accepted as such.
Panamarenko thinks and acts in a different way in order to establish an anarchy which is more positive than perverse, and which refuses all qualitative differences between poetic intuition, scientific research, technical practice and ironic dreams. With his basic irreverence, his individual gravitation takes off flying beyond the alienation of a society in which intelligence, sensibility and oneiric richness are usually reduced to standardized goods that flatter intellectual status. With his practice of calling attention to difference, Panamarenko built a set of works which are a parable of his freedom, suggesting, to all who are ready to see and hear, the basics for a new ¤loge de la folie.
"He is never late for anything.
His heart is free from all movement;
He owns his future, no residue deteriorates."
Born in 1940 in Antwerp, Belgium, where he lives and works. Studied at the Royal Academy of Arts in Antwerp. In 1963 he exhibited his first works: Cooper Plates with Bullet-Holes. In 1965 he produced his first collages for Happening News, the first happenings carried out in Antwerp. He founded the Gallery Wide White Space in Antwerp in 1966, where he exhibited his first `poetic objects■. In 1967 he built his airplane Flugzeug. In 1968 he was invited by Joseph Beuys - whom he had met at the Gallery Wide White Space - and the DĂsseldorf Academy to display, among other works, L■Avion and Prova Car. Between 1969 and 1971 he built L■Aeromodeller. He then moved to the house where he still lives together with his mother, who helped him plaid the cabin of his balloon. He carried out his first attempt to fly using hydrogen but soon gave up the idea due to safety reasons. Most of his work are kept in a hangar built by him in Bergeijk. This shelter was sponsored by Mia and Martin Visser. In 1972 he was invited by Harald Szeemann to participate in the Documenta 5; the L■Aeromodeller was displayed in the Fredericianum big room. He spent three months at the Cranfield Institute of Technology in Great Britain where he built and tested the U-Kontrol III. He published in 1975 The mechanism of gravity, closed systems of speed alterations as well as other texts issued by Marzona, from Bielefeld, Germany. In 1984 he started a series of travels which deeply influenced his work: "Until I was 45 years old I had never left my country, except when I went to New York and to Berlin: even then I always stayed within the gallery space and never went outside this circuit." First he went to the Furka mountains, in Switzerland, where he carried out his first Rugzak, his mountain chariot and the flying car K2; he then went to Egypt, to the Red Sea, where he discovered the maritime fauna; in the Maldives Islands he carried out experiments with his diving suit entitled The Portuguese Man of War. In the Amazon he looked for the hoazin, a pre-historic bird. In Japan both in 1992 and 1993 he held several exhibitions. In 1994 he built his two-pawed camel, Knikkebeen. He is now working on a submarine project.
Galeria Orez, The Hague, Holland; Opgepast! Bochten! Blijf op Het Voetpad!, Galeria Wide White Space, Antwerp, Belgium.
Galeria Wide White Space, Antwerp, Belgium.
Closed System Power, New York, United States; Galeria RenŰ Block, Museu de Mńnchengladbach, Berlin, Germany; Galeria Konrad Fischer, DĂsseldorf, Germany; Galeria Rudolf Zwirner, Cologne, Germany; When Attitudes Become Form, Kuntshalle, Bern, Switzerland; Het geheim der specialisten, de fijne vliegtuigmecanica, P.A.T. Portable Air Transport, Galeria Wide White Space, Antwerp, Belgium.
L■Aeromodeller, Documenta 5, Grande Sala do Fredericianum, Kassel, Germany.
Kunstmuseum, Lucerna, Switzerland; Kunsthalle, DĂsseldorf, Germany; Kunstverein de Stuttgart, Germany; MuseŰ d■Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, France.
Hangar de Panamarenko, exhibition organized by Stedelijk Van Abbe Museum d■Eindhoven, Bergeijk, Holland.
Nationalgalerie, Berlin, Germany; Rijksmuseum Krńller-MĂller, Otterlo, Holland; Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, Belgium.
L■Aeromodeller, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France.
Haus der Kunst, Munich, Germany.
MusŰe de Villeneuve-d■Ascq, France.
Vleeshal, Middelburg, Holland.
Kunstverein, Ulm, Germany; Le Voyage aux ¤toiles, Galerie Christine e Isy Brachot, Brussels, Belgium.
CitŰ des Sciences et Industries, Parc de la Villette, Paris, France.
RŰtrospective 1965-1985, Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst, Antwerp, Belgium;
L■Avion, MusŰe des Beaux-Arts, Chapelle de l■Oratoire, Nantes, France.
Kunstverein, Hannover, Germany.
Traveling exhibition in five places: Tokyo, Japan; Osaka, Japan; Fukuyama, Japan; Toyama, Japan; Kamakura, Japan.
Toymodel of Space et de Flip die Obstfliege, Europa´sches Patentamt, Munich, Germany.
Bernouilli, Galerie Christine e Isy Brachot, Brussels, Belgium.
become form, Kunsthalle, Bern, Switzerland; ExpŰrimentations, Centre de CrŰation Contemporaine, Tours, France.