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Art and Science Collide in Takis Exhibition at Tate Modern

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You will be flabbergasted to see a bank of flowers swaying in response to a magnetic field, not to a breeze. Their uncannily naturalistic motions are being coupled with a blatantly functional form.

For Panayiotis Vassilakis aka Takis, magnetism introduces another dimension to sculpture, giving an active component which serves as means and material. No longer limited to the representation of action, sculptures are action for Takis.

In the hands of Takis the artist, Painting also turns into a contested space: canvases bulge like magnets upon both sides of a painted area hold a set of abstract things aloft, as in Takis’s “Magnetic Wall 9”. This work affirms and defies the restrictions of two dimensional (2D) representation; as objects that float in front of its canvas animate the “image plane”, they declare it redundant.

Panayiotis Vassilakis was born in Athens, and he later moved to Paris city, in time, being part of the circle of avant-gardes based at Latin Quarter’s Beat Hotel, where Takis met poets and artists including Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs. Radical possibilities of the new art by Takis were first revealed back in the year 1960, when he suspended Sinclair Beiles the poet in mid-air with electromagnetism. From the middle of the air, the poet recited the “Magnetic Manifesto” poem, in an action which was just as loaded with politics as it was creative.

In Takis’s magnet sculptures, essential principles are being set floating as the spaces among objects turn loaded with importance, teeming with hidden energy as these connect and interact with one another. Throughout his career, Panayiotis Vassilakis made sculptures that seem like antenna or aerials, and those predating Takis’s experiments with magnetism look to sculpture forms from the past as a way of accessing some basic, primal force.

The most beguiling is his sound sculptures, whose eerie resonances echo age-old cries to the void as human beings looked for reaching beyond the known world confines. As electromagnetic pulses are pulling rods against wires, a series of stuttered yet pure sounds emerge. These sound as though they have not been made, but revealed by devices that are more scientific and less musical instruments, which transmit cosmic sounds. The language is amusingly hippyish, yet the significance of Panayiotis Vassilakis’s project is not all that easily dated.

The show “Sculptor of magnetism, light and sound” runs through October 27, 2019. To know more about Takis’s work, take Tate Modern tours.

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