23rd November 2006 – 7th January 2007
Kinetica Museum, Spitalfields Market, London, UK


It seems to me to be a superlative thing - to know the explanation of everything.
Why it comes to be
Why it perishes
Why it is.

Socrates, circa 500BC


Magnetism has intrigued and puzzled mankind ever since Pythagoras and his peers first mentioned this mysterious invisible force, around 500BC. They described how pieces of iron ore, from the city-state of magnesia (hence the word magnet), would attract and repel each other and they made the very first attempt to explain the universe without using supernatural phenomena. Their theory explained that the world was made of vibrations, and sought answers through experimentation and mathematics. Today's physicists, trying to understand how gravity, magnetism and the forces binding atomic nuclei relate to each other, have come up with 'String Theory', a description uncannily similar to that of the Pythagoreans.

Magnets remained a curiosity until the Chinese invented the compass, around the second century, enabling navigators to keep on course when the clouds obscured the sun and stars. The fact that a compass needle (a magnet) always points north and south was explained by William Gilbert. He concluded that the earth itself had to be a magnet and published this discovery in his book, ‘De Magnesium' in 1600.

The late 18th century brought on the discovery of electricity. Faraday found that electrical currents always produce a magnetic field and that by moving a conductor through a magnetic field it causes a current of electricity. This lead to the invention of the electric motor and the generator and, upon these revelations, the electric 20th century was born.

Every device powered by electricity depends on the unique properties of the magnet. Like gravity, magnetic fields extend through us and throughout the universe, to the black hole at the centre of our galaxy and beyond, into inter-galactic space. Many of the artists within the Magnetic Vision exhibition have modelled these cosmological forces at the centre of our galaxy by making works that mirror the power and beauty inherent in our universe.

The quest continues...

John Dunbar – 2006
Catalogue Essay Magnetic Vision


The only vision I ever had of magneticism was during a conversation with Takis in Paris in his studio, looking at his little metal cones humming, waveringly pulled by wires straight at their little magnet feathers; and he, Takis, explained to me that the stars where all pulled together with myriad thin invisible wires of magnetism radiating from every star to every other star - so we imagined, if you pulled out any one star the whole thrumming mechanism would slip a cosmic inch like a quavering mobile and all twang together into place at once on lines of unseen magnetic tracks…thunk.

Allen Ginsberg, Bombay, April 22nd 1962





Balint Bolygo
Max Eastley  
Juan Fontanive
Paul Fryer
Rolf Gehlhaar
Liliane Lijn
Petroc Sesti
Bruce Shapiro
Jason Shulman
Simon Uribe