zurich dada


The Luna Nera Group, Pain[ting] Machine

For the 2003 Zurich Dada Festival at the Sihlpapierfabrik, a large disused paper factory, London-based art group Luna Nera created “Pain[ting] Machine” – a live art installation engaging with ideas generated by the early Dada group in Zurich.

It was not a requirement of the Festival to make work which directly engaged with the DADA movement, but Luna Nera took this as their own brief. In homage to this prototype art group, “Pain[ting] Machine”was a live art work based on ideas developed by Tristan Tzara and Raymond Roussel. The machine was used for a live performance and then remained as a working installation in the Sihlpapierfabrik

The “Pain[ting] Machine” explores Tzara’s idea of the human machine. Using found / waste materials sourced mainly from the factory: the group created a large machine that takes blood from a person (simulated) and pumps it into a machine which them “paints” onto prepared canvases. The “blood source” was one artist, who was hanging from a hook in the middle of the former factory floor. The hook was on a rail and the man was brought out into the main installation space by the rest of the artists, who were wearing white suits and surgical masks. The paintings were done onto large canvases which were prepared with photo-transfer images of the factory.

After the painting performance, the paintings were brought out and displayed in the room. The original intention was to sell or give away the paintings, but in this case they were left as part of the installation. The machine as it remained, with the “blood” in IV drip bottles, can also be operated by the public, who can use it to make their own art work.

The “painting machine” is also influenced by the idea of Raymond Roussel in 1912 & never built. Roussel’s painting machine stayed a concept/vision of the artist being replaced by machines. What Roussel foresaw was our present state of existence where commercial patterns are being “invented” by machines, computers create mind boggling patterns and pets are robots.

The paint machine Luna Nera built reflected this state of spiritual bankruptcy, where the artist is entangled like a puppet in strings, to produce in order to please. At the same time, the paint machine not only represents the artist, but all humans as part of a greater machine, producing in order to exist and vice versa – existing in order to produce. Although Roussel never made the painting machine, Swiss artist Jean Tinguely used Roussel’s plans to build a series of painting machines. Luna Nera took the ideas of all of these artists, freely mixing them in with their own macabre sensibility.