Hoxton Square was taken over last week by an alien species. Not by crowds of patent-heeled, artfully styled students and designers - though they were there too, in record numbers - but by the weird and fantastic creations of the Kinetica Museum's artists. Held in the Rove Gallery and part of the East London Concrete and Glass festival, Creatures Great and Small features what must surely be some of the quirkiest offerings of the contemporary art scene.
The Rove Gallery is a perfect venue for this show, its pure white space contrasting with the industrial feel of the artworks - a bit as if a mechanic in greasy overalls had wandered into an architect's office. The initial impression is of a Heath Robinson-esque era of spinning bicycle wheels and blinking eyes complete with clanks and whirrs. It's all far away from the smooth, high-tech installations we're accustomed to seeing in the digital world. But part of the charm of these pieces is the almost childlike pleasure their creators must take in producing mechanical motions.
While simple to the eyes of viewers, these can be surprisingly complex in practice, such as Reuben Margolin's waves or Roger Vilder's springs on motors (will they ever return to their original configuration?) And there's a fair bit of science behind Daniel Chadwick's elegant sculpture, which rotates like a mutant orrery through a combination of solar-generated motion and balance. Nearly all of the participating artists make some reference to byways in the history of science - most explicitly in an artwork that uses the principles of phrenology to create automated drawings.
The most amazing thing about these strange creations is the way in which they inhabit their space and even take on personality. Nik Ramage's bicycle wheel contraptions are comic and oddly touching in their stuttering movements, while in another room a walking cart follows people with a seriously creepy inquisitiveness. There's something to keep an eye on in Hoxton Square, and it's not just your wallet.
Words and image by Rebecca Pohancenik
Creatures Great and Small at the Rove Gallery until 19 October. For more information, go to the Kinetica webisite.