In the frames of the Creative Chaos workshop series and inspired by the works of legendary artist and designer Bruno Munari, we built a mobile installation endearingly called a “useless machine”. Thanks to his fruitful experiments, Munari gained fame namely as the founder of kinetic art — moving elements were central to his art. We wished to ignite just this kind of experimental artistic mindset in the kids. To make sure that creativity flows, we prepared a surprise package for each participant, in which they found a lot of geometric shapes, big and small, cut from leftover materials, and a little ball of thread.

Bruno Munari being playful. Photo: Fondazione Plart

So it was time to get crafting! But before we got to open the package, we had to warm up our muscles, so that our fingers could work swiftly. To this end, the planking challenge fit right in: warming up not just our fingers, but our whole body. After the energizer, the children briefly learned about Bruno Munari’s life story and did some quick testing. Munari’s inspiration for kinetic art came from a childhood memory of his: he was captivated by the beauty of cut-out papers in flight when he threw them out of the window. Children could also try this by throwing the contents of the surprise package up in the air.

A prototype of a “useless machine”. Photo: VIVITA Estonia

We moved forward by trial and error: without much instruction, the kids went ahead to build their installations. The tricky part was to mix and match the different shapes so that they would hang in balance. There was nothing left to do but simply experiment as the possible solutions were countless. The smaller shapes were helpful because they could be glued onto the bigger ones so that a better balance is achieved. Soon enough all kids were ready with their installations.

The last step was to decorate the shapes. The designs turned out visually very different in style. Some used a more minimalistic and abstract approach while others presented detailed nature motifs. The finished artworks evoked many different associations: from forest creatures hiding behind one another to geometric humans striving for the moon. In any case, the stage was set for an abundance of stories, the final ending however depends on the childrens’ own visions…

The finished artworks. Photo: VIVITA Estonia

The question of the “useless machine” remains unsettled. Named as such by the creator himself, Munari wished to stir up a discussion about the fuzzy boundaries between art and design. Surely “usefulness” is very subjective and it is in the functionality of the mobile installation where its beauty lies. The moving shapes are hypnotizing: looking at them brings you peacefulness. On a sunny day, the installation makes for an exciting play of light and shadow. And the concept of usefulness is turned on its head.

Workshop creators: Vera Naydenova and Eva Liisa Kubinyi
Text: Eva Liisa Kubinyi
Photos: VIVITA Estonia

Kids and Youth Creativity Accelerator