Interview with Ira Flatow for Science Friday
How a Bohemian Engineer Helped Blend Art and Science
The following is an excerpt from Colliding Worlds: How Cutting-Edge Science Is Redefining Contemporary Art, by Arthur I. Miller.
In early 1960, an unlikely-looking pair of men were to be seen driving a Chevrolet convertible around the New Jersey garbage dumps, scavenging. Both were in their mid-thirties and European. One was tall with a long face reminiscent of the existentialist Albert Camus, with a cigarette firmly fixed between his lips and a Swiss accent. The other was smaller and neater, with a distinct Swedish accent. They collected scraps of old metal, bicycle parts, baby carriages, and other garbage. Later the Chevrolet reappeared in Manhattan, where the two heaved their load of garbage over the fence (lower in those days) into the sculpture garden of the Museum of Modern Art.
The result of their efforts was an explosive work that literally shook the New York art scene. It was called Homage to New York and, with a nod to that great and ever-changing city, was designed to self-destruct, which indeed it did in spectacular fashion. As for the two scavengers, one was the anarchic Swiss artist Jean Tinguely. His co-conspirator was an electrical engineer taking time off from his day job at Bell Labs: Billy Klüver. So who was this bohemian engineer? […]