Jack Burnham on Boyd Mefferd “Strobe-Light Floor” (1968)

By the fact that most systems move or are in some way dynamic, kinetic art should be one of the more radical alternatives to the prevailing formalist esthetic. Yet this has hardly been the case.

The best publicized kinetic sculpture is mainly a modification of static formalist sculpture
composition. In most instances these have only the added bonus of motion, as in the case of Tinguely, Calder, Bury, and Rickey. Only Duchamp’s kinetic output managed to reach beyond formalism. Rather than visual appearance there is an entirely different concern which makes kinetic art unique. This is the peripheral perception of sound and movement in space filled with activity. All too often gallery kinetic art has trivialized the more graspable aspect of motion: – this is motion internalized and experienced kinesthetically.

There are a few important exceptions to the above. These include Otto Piene’s early “Light Ballets” (1958-1962), the early (1956) water hammocks and informal on-going environments of Japan’s Gutai group, some works by Len Lye, Bob Breer’s first show of “Floats” (1965), Robert Whitman’s laser show of “Dark” (1967), and most recently, Boyd Mefferd’s “Strobe-Light Floor” (1968)  (p. 33)

Burnham, J. (1968). Systems esthetics. Artforum, 7(1), 30-35.