Installation view of “Evolutionary Love,” 2021. Photo: Tim Bowditch, Courtesy Standpoint Gallery

Creaturely Connections: A Conversation with Dean Kenning

Welcome to a future that has always been, where resurrected technology suggests everlasting life and highlights an end point. These are the possibilities and contradictions inhabiting Dean Kenning’s unique kinetic sculptures. Using lo-fi technology, including old portable cassette players, synthesizer keyboards, and disco light motors, along with cheap computing parts, he creates curiously creature-like moving sculptures that put an endearing face on a deeply considered art practice underpinned by the convergence of philosophy, politics, art theory, and science. Kenning further explores these themes in wide-ranging diagrammatic projects and across pedagogical initiatives, propelled by a grounded, hands-on investigation into how things might function.

“Evolutionary Love,” his Mark Tanner Sculpture Award exhibition (which debuted at London’s Standpoint Gallery last year before traveling to additional U.K. venues), transformed gallery space into a laboratory to observe the self-absorbed behaviors of mechanical entities. Stationed near a doorway, a pair of what Kenning calls “rubber plants” writhed and wriggled on their perches, like gatekeepers too busy to pay visitors much attention. Meanwhile small-scale robots with clumpy, bulbous limbs crawled around underfoot, awkward, sweet, and just a little pathetic. Video captured on their camera heads and live-streamed to floor-level screens propped against the walls showed us the world from their lowly perspective.

Jillian Knipe: The camera feed has a peculiar time jolt that mimics how we’re always seeing in the past because of the speed of light.
Dean Kenning:
There’s about a second’s delay from camera to screens, simply due to technology. I’m interested in going along with these limited realities, as long as it works in an interesting way—a bit like the Bruce Nauman corridor, where you see yourself in delay . . .

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