Stephan von Huene



Werk - Tisch Tänzer
Artist / Artist group
Stephan von Huene
installation, computer-based
Material / Technique
4 computer-controlled sculptures with ultrasonic sensor, 14 framed drawings, computer-controlled choreography, 2 compressors
Dimensions / Duration
Sculptures ca. 200 x 80 x 50 cm each; drawings 170 x 115 x 5 cm each
ZKM | Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe

» »Dancing on Tables« is news below the belt line brought above the table line. We may remember that tap dancing is a form of dance where the news is in the feet.«[1]

Stephan von Huene’s kinetic installation »Dancing on Tables« features four life-sized male mannequins placed on four wooden plinths. But the figures have a ghostly quality, as only their lower bodies are included, dressed in carefully ironed suit trousers, leather belts, and shiny patent leather shoes. Ten monochrome drawings, recalling fashion design sketches, are hung behind the four pairs of legs.

When a visitor-triggered sensor sets the installation in motion, the group of figures comes to life. The first three pairs of legs begin tapdancing to a medley of music and the speeches of US politicians, with the different moods of these orations instigating specific movements: Dwight D. Eisenhower speaks on peace, Lyndon B. Johnson on civil liberties, and Jesse Jackson on his unsuccessful nomination to presidential candidacy.

The legs of the fourth figure, naked excepting shoes, alternate between sequences from the classical ballets of George Friedrich Handel’s »Rinaldo« and George Bizet’s »Les Pêcheurs de Perles« [The Pearl-Fishers]. The figures’ movements, their shadows on the background drawings, the arias and speeches, and the click of the tap shoes merge into a »theater of machines.«[2]

Huene’s staging recalls his memories of William Saroyan’s play »The Time of Your Life« (1939), which he saw as a child. In it, a man earns a living by tap-dancing in a bar in San Francisco: As he reads the newspaper out loud, he improvises a tap dance to the rhythms of his speech. Perhaps news is best transmitted via the feet.

[1] Stephan von Huene, »Dancing on Tables: News From Below the Belt Line,« in: Stephan von Huene: Dancing on Tables, ed. Petra Oelschlägel (Ostfildern-Ruit: Cantz, 1995), 11.

[2] Achatz von Müller, »Border Walker, Border Mover: The Artist as Teacher,« in: Stephan von Huene—Tune the World—The Retrospective, exhib. cat. (Ostfildern-Ruit: Cantz, 2002). Cited here from

Author: Theresa Rößler

About the artist/s