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Gerhard Graulich

Form of kinetic sculpture, incorporating an element or elements set in motion by natural external forces. The term, which is also sometimes used more loosely to describe sculptural works with the capacity for motorized or hand-driven mechanical movement, was first used by Marcel Duchamp in 1932 to describe works by Alexander Calder (see Calder family, §3). The notable feature of Calder’s sculptures, which were suspended by threads, was that their movement was caused solely by atmospheric forces, such as wind and warm air currents. Movement was not, therefore, merely suggested by the treatment, as in traditional sculpture, but took place directly and unpredictably in the object. Because the kinetic sequences of the mobile could not be fixed or programmed, predictability and repeatability were eliminated.

The main inspiration behind the development of the mobile was Duchamp, whose ready-made Bicycle Wheel (1913; untraced; editioned replica 1964; Cologne, Mus. Ludwig) gave rise to many innovations in ...


Erika Billeter

Term that gained currency in the late 1960s to describe any form of sculpture made from pliable materials and consequently not absolutely fixed in its shape. As an art form its origins can be traced particularly to the ‘soft sculptures’ devised by Claes Oldenburg as early as 1962. Precedents can be found, however, in earlier 20th-century art, beginning with Dada, for example in Marcel Duchamp’s presentation of a typewriter cover as a ready-made entitled Traveller’s Folding Item (1917; untraced; replica, 1964; see Marcel Duchamp, exh. cat., New York, MOMA, 1973, p. 280) and in object collages by Man Ray (e.g. the Enigma of Isidore Ducasse, 1920; see Man Ray photographie, exh. cat., Paris, Pompidou, 1981, p. 134). Sculptures made by Surrealists, such as those shown in Paris at the Galerie Charles Ratton (1936) and at the Exposition Internationale du Surréalisme (Paris, Gal. B.-A., 1938), made particular use of malleable materials, often with a strong erotic aspect; ...