Julio Le Parc is a unique magician with irresistible powers. Cheerfully and with a light hand, he transports us to a kaleidoscopic universe of flickering, shimmering, dancing, leaping, and swaying light, a realm of overwhelming elegance and beauty that exerts on us a hypnotic fascination. In Le Parc’s enchanted garden of light we become children again, absorbed in our games and oblivious to the rest of the world.
Success is virtually inevitable when exhibiting Julio Le Parc’s light-kinetic works from the 1960s; his works cannot but captivate the audience. From senior to toddler and across all social classes, everyone is intrigued by the all-encompassing and sensuous total experience flowing around our senses and our minds as soon as we enter one of Julio’s light spaces. No wonder our exhibitions of Julio Le Parc’s light-kinetic works from the Daros Latinamerica Collection met with success when we showcased them, among others, in Bogotá, Mexico City, Buenos Aires, and of course at our premises in Zürich and in Rio de Janeiro. The 2005 exhibition in Zürich was exceptional in that it marked a very special premiere for us:
Over many years I had seen Julio’s light-kinetic works time and again in different places of the world—enough to realize that they were exceedingly significant, and too few to grasp them as a whole. As soon as I had assumed my position with the Daros Latinamerica Collection, I visited Julio Le Parc at his studio in Cachan near Paris together with our technical curator Käthe Walser to inquire about the corpus of his light-kinetic works. These, however, only existed to a somewhat limited extent: packed up in boxes, there were old mechanical machine parts, small engines, drives, springs, soviet-produced light bulbs, etc. The challenge consisted in trying to envision together which of his works might form a coherent complex that would approximate a representation of Le Parc’s light-kinetic oeuvre in its most important aspects.
How could we deal with a work of art that we had never seen before? It had to be assembled in order to be able to view and assess it. And how could we proceed with dozens of works that we did not yet know? In the same way. However, I was soon to understand that our planned trial assembly would have to lead directly into a public exhibition—the effort was simply too considerable to go through it twice!
So we decided to run the risk and reconstruct all of Julio’s light-kinetically relevant works and present them straightaway to the public in a major premiere—a premiere because the works hadn’t been shown as a whole for many years and because his light-kinetic creation had simply been falling into oblivion. Together with the artist, Käthe Walser congenially and at a high scientific standard recreated the light-kinetic works in the following years, finally awakening the sleeping beauties and resurrecting them to a new life of pulsating, reflected and multiply refracted light. A magical transformation took place: pathetic bricolages in broad daylight, the objects turned into the most enchanting and graceful immaterial light poems imaginable as soon as the lights were extinguished.
„What matters is what people see, not what someone says about it”
Julio Le Parc broke radically in the 1960s with artistic convention, rejecting static images in favor of dynamism that placed works of art in a constant state of flux, eliminating the possibility of fixed viewpoints. The animated play of light transforms space and makes the viewer an integral part of a gesamtkunstwerk. The artist establishes a set of basic conditions, but the overlappings and other features of the light phenomena are the result of chance. This aleatoric approach generates ever new and surprising constellations that can never be grasped in their entirety. Experiencing these fleeting light happenings encourages us to reflect on the unstable nature of reality and on the irregular course of life itself, with its multi-facetted chopping and changing.
Le Parc’s kinetic works resist interpretation in specific terms. And that is exactly the artist’s intention. In a world in which everything and everyone is organized—which is no less the case in the supposedly free realm of art—Le Parc offers a way out of our regimented existence, liberating viewers from their state of dependence by allowing them to become part of a total light experience. Seeking to grant a greater measure of self-determination to his viewer-participants, Le Parc would be the last to impose a particular view on them: “What matters is what people see, not what someone says about it.” The profoundly human character of his work and its political dimension lie in this rigorous eschewal of absolute claims. This is a free and democratic art, full of respect for humanity, averse to the cult of genius, and completely anti-authoritarian.