Newton’s Buddha

2020 | Lucky Cat, Newton pendulum | 55 x 100 x 100 cm

The installation »Newtons Buddha« consists of a Newton pendulum standing in the immediate vicinity of a beckoning cat that waves at the pendulum. The result of this special constellation is that the pendulum does not stop after some time, as is usually the case, but moves back and forth for an infinite time – synchronised with the waving of the cat. The encounter of the beckoning cat with the Newton pendulum seems to banish the devil of physics and shifts the Pillars of Hercules resp. the limits of the possible. In fact, this work makes it possible to experience a perpetual motion machine. Similar to Nam June Paik’s »TV-Buddha«, in which Eastern deity and Western media shake hands, here Eastern philosophy beckons to the history of European thought.

The main protagonist of the work is a (usually rather smiled at) beckoning or lucky cat that conjures monsters in the immediate vicinity of a Newtonian pendulum, to “disturb the sleep of scientific reason” (Kaplan, 1991). The work is dealing with the law of conservation of energy (Helmholtz, 1847) and with it the emergence of the perpetual motion machines (Scheerbart, 1984), which contributes to transforming the certainty “that nature is entirely committed to laws devised by man” (Pertigen, 2000, p.22). The claim to the general validity of a physical phenomenon and the self-evidence that goes with it is thereby functionally and aesthetically undermined. Its supposed sovereignty, the ability to trace the meaning of phenomena back to regularities, is thwarted with senselessness and sensuality. Utility and rationality are mocked by engineering science from their own technical ranks. And quite incidentally, the unattainable myth of “perpetual motion” is apparently defeated by a cat.

Helmholtz, H. v. (1847). Über die Erhaltung der Kraft. Berlin.
Kaplan, L. (1991). Witzenschaftliche Weltbetrachtungen: das verdammte Universum des Charles Fort. Matthias Gatza, Berlin.
Paik, N. J. (1976). TV Buddha.
Pertigen, E. (2000). Der Teufel in der Physik: eine Kulturgeschichte des Perpetuum mobile. Verlag Informationen für Technik und Wissenschaft (IT & W), Berlin.
Scheerbart, P. (1984). Das perpetuum mobile: die Geschichte einer Erfindung. Porto Editori S.A.L.


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