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Voyage II

© Frank Joseph Malina ; photo © ZKM | Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe, photo: Tobias Wootton
Voyage II
Material / Technique
fluorescent lamps, electric motor, painted acrylic glas panes, metal
Dimensions / Duration
81 x 62 x 8 cm
ZKM | Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe
"Since I had been making Op art-type pictures with wooden frames […], for my first try at using electric light I inserted a lamp of about 50W into such a construction. In a few minutes the hot lamp caused a column of smoke to rise from the charring wood! I said to myself that I now understand why electric light is not suitable in art objects and gave up my attempt. A few months later I sat in my studio looking at our Christmas tree with its string of small bulbs—they did no harm to the tree. How stupid I had been not to have thought of installing lamps of low wattage in the picture! After the tree was taken down, with one of the strings of bulbs I made my first electric light picture […], which I called an electropainting." [1] (Malina, 1975)
The work »Voyage II«, with its touchpoints between light and movement, perfectly encapsulates Frank Joseph Malina’s artistic output. The artist was a pioneer of kinetic art, but art was not his sole profession. He was also an aeronautical engineer and worked on the launch of the first US high-altitude rocket. After cofounding the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in 1944 (which focused on developing satellites and space probes and is now affiliated with NASA) and working at UNESCO, Malina dedicated himself almost exclusively to his art from 1953 onwards, making use of his prior research.
By integrating electric light into his artistic creations, Malina created the concept of electropainting. He later developed, together with Jean Villmer, an electromechanical system called Lumidyne for this method, of which »Voyage II« is an example. The system combines motors and light bulbs with colored plexiglass and transparent diffusion screens. Malina continuously worked to improve it and experimented with different elements to create new types of images and visual effects combining light and movement.
In 1968, he founded the influential magazine »Leonardo« as an open forum for artists working at the intersection of art, science, and technology.

[1] Frank Joseph Malina, »Electric Light as a Medium in the Visual Fine Arts: A Memoir,« Leonardo 8, no. 2 (summer 1975): 109–19.




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