Tue, Feb 24, 2009 - Page 1 News List

COMMUNITY COMPASS: PROFILE: Artist weaves time into his work

DEPARTURERegular art is frozen in time and never changes. Yaacov Agam, a pioneer in ‘kinetic art’ and the creator of an installation in Kaohsiung, changed that

By Jenny W. hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER


At just about 1.52m tall, the 81 year-old, white-bearded Yaacov Agam may walk with a bit of a wobble, but he towers as a giant in the art world as he craftily manipulates colors to spread his message: Time can be defied, life is full of infinite possibilities and God is omniscient.

Best known as a forward-thinking pioneer in the optical and kinetic art field, the son of rabbi has impressed many with his abstract sculptures that use the fourth dimension, or time, as his main element.

The creator of the Agamograph — graphic art that expands beyond the traditional still-life — Agam arranges his images in a constant changing form, with the result that images appear and disappear, with the viewer never seeing the whole picture at once.

“My endeavor,” he once said, “has been to create a kind of visual graphic art, existing not only in space, but in time, one in which the form develops and evolves, thus procuring an unforeseeable infinity of plastic situations flowing out of one another.”

The piece Agam created for the upcoming World Games in Kaohsiung, titled Peaceful Communication with the World, perfectly exemplifies his philosophy.

The breathtaking monument is Agam’s first and only public art display in Taiwan. The piece consists of nine 10m high hexagon pillars positioned in diamond formation — or square, depending on where you are standing.

All 54 sides of the nine pillars are painted in different patterns and hues, totaling more than 180 shades. A closer look reveals that the one side of each pillar is also lined to segment the structure into sections.

The purpose of the segment, he said, is that as children grow, their perception of the pillar will change because they will see whole different pillar as their eyes hit at a different height.

Through this method, I defy time, he said.

Pointing to a watercolor painting on a wall in his hotel room, he said: “That painting will always look like that no matter when you look at it. But when people look at my art, they will always something totally new at a different stage of life.”

His art also “becomes alive,” he said, when people move around throughout the pillars. A little more than 2cm to the right, a step to the left, 30cm higher, 1m lower, a girl dressed in yellow is holding hands with a man in black, a child with a blue hat hugs his mom in a purple dress, everything is in constant motion, always changing.

“As the people wearing different color of clothing weave through the pillars, they become part of the art piece. They are an element that makes the piece non-static,” he said.

Recalling the story of Noah’s ark from the Bible, when God sent down a rainbow after the flood as a promise of hope that he would never send a flood again, Agam said the reason he used a rainbow in his piece was that as Taiwan will be welcoming visitors from all over the world during the games, “the rainbow [represents] the unity of difference.”

The symbolism of the number “nine” behind the piece comes from the Arabic number, which is shaped like a person, while the number eight resembles the symbol for infinity. Combined, the two numbers mean that “life is full of infinite possibility and time does not end,” he said.

Agam’s piece can be seen in the front quad of the sports coliseum that will be used during the World Games in July.

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