Named after radical artists who collectively called themselves "Zero" in post-war Germany, Mona’s exhibition, ZERO, reveals the work of those protagonists from the 1950s and ’60s; their network of connections and collaborators across Europe and beyond; and the continuing influence of their vision today. In the words of one of the founding artists, Otto Piene, "It is not a style, it is not a group… It’s a vision of things".
This internationally networked "vision of things" counts among the major art-historical phenomena of the second half of the twentieth century.
Zero came from Düsseldorf, but they wanted to go to the moon, or at least exhibit there. They found individualism oppressive, but the future looked very impressive indeed. Zero seemed to be the place to start the future.
“Zero’s philosophical foundation was that art was not something to be painfully extracted in solitude, but assembled and constructed with others, using whatever materials came best to hand: metal, cardboard, glass, plastic, cloth, mirrors and smoke… They banged nails, smashed bottles, poked holes, and cut up each other’s canvases,” Jane Clark, Senior Research Curator, Mona, said. The physical sensory experience of the spectator, one-night exhibitions with music and manifestos, optical and sound effects, were all absolutely intrinsic to their art.
Mona’s exhibition brings together, for the first time in Australia, artworks by Zero’s founders, and the much wider international movement that has come to be called ZERO. Many of their originally ephemeral installations will be reconstructed here for the first time. Reflective materials, electric light, perceptual distortions, and moving parts will create an exciting and immersive journey for visitors.
In particular, the exhibition highlights the theme of "vibration": the theme of the eighth "evening exhibition" and the second issue of the journal Zero in 1958. Back then, Heinz Mack wrote about “resting restlessness… the expression of continuous movement, which we call "vibration"… Its harmony stirs our souls, as the life and breath of the work”.
Artists include Heinz Mack, Otto Piene, Günther Uecker and Adolf Luther from Germany; Lucio Fontana, Nanda Vigo, Grazia Varisco, Enrico Castellani and Gianni Colombo from Italy; with Marcel Duchamp, Yves Klein and François Morellet from France; Henk Peeters from The Netherlands; Christian Megert from Switzerland; Jesús Soto from Venezuela; and Yayoi Kusama from Japan.
(Photo: Ulrich Helweg Courtesy Samuelis Baumgarte Galerie)