Hosted by: Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
Dutch artist Christiaan Zwanikken (1967) has received international recognition through his kinetic and mechanical sculptures, sound works, performative and responsive installations. Using a variety of sculptural media, robotics, biology, micro-controllers, and sound— his work is both an artistic and technological experiment in which innovation and invention play an important role.
The substantive basis of the recent work is based on the assumption that human activities causing climate change and the destruction of biodiversity are symptoms of a greater cognitive and phenomenological problem. As technological artifacts proliferate and biodiversity as a living scaffold of life-learning is not comprehended, the role of the sensitive experience of the environment in the development of cognitive and cultural abilities declines. Cut off from the elements of the living world from which human intelligence emerged and on which it had long relied, people are now deprived of a basic intellectual resource. In such circumstances, there is no experiential, conceptual, or representational basis for appreciating the debt which the human mind owes to other forms of life on Earth. Without empathy for biodiversity, it becomes practically impossible to achieve a stable psychological foundation for the kind of sustained ecological commitment needed to solve contemporary environmental crises.
His work has been presented in solo and group exhibitions at the Museum of Natural History (NYC), Exit 2011 (Paris), ISEA2012 (Albuquerque), Kinetica Museum (London), Museum Tingeuly (Basel), Kunsthaus Graz (Austria), ICC Centre (Tokyo), National Galerie (Prague), Taipei Fine Arts Museum (Taiwan), Museu del Chopo (Mexico-City), and Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam (Netherlands). His work can be found in numerous public and private collections. He was the recipient of several Dutch and international grants. In 2014 he had a major retrospective show at Museum Het Valkhof (Netherlands)
He received a BFA in sculpture from the Gerrit Rietveldacademie (1992) and a MFA in New Sculptural Media from the Rijksakademie (1994), both in Amsterdam.
His studio is based in Amsterdam but he also works for extensive periods of time at a four hundred-year-old former Franciscan monastery, Convento Mértola, Portugal in whose supernatural environs he uses as a lab for studying and experimenting with natural processes.
Exploring the relationship between man, nature, science, and technology, Zwanikken overlaps the animate and inanimate. Each sculpture is therefore both mechanical and autonomous with a personal identity created through software, electronic sensory and artificial speech. Although he uses “hard” technologies like machines and control-systems, he always tries to address the human being and “soft” technologies.
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