Panamarenko

Img 3160

° 1940

Born in Antwerp (BE), lives in East Flanders (BE).

Panamarenko was born in Antwerp in 1940. He is an artist. But also an inventor, technician, mathematician, philosopher and visionary. And all at the same time. He has made hovering constructions, flying rucksacks, helicopters with pedals, airships, maybeetles, submarines and walking chickens. Panamarenko appears in the early 1960s, at first often as Panamarenko Multimillionair. The signature is something to do with the airline PanAm (the desire to leave the earth behind being one of his constant preoccupations), with Panama (the word painted on the Aeromodeller inflatable airship meant to fly to the Sonsbeek open-air exhibition in the Netherlands in 1971) and with the name of a Soviet politician, Panteleimon Ponomarenko, picked up from a radio broadcast. After studying art in Antwerp, Panamarenko started exhibiting in 1963. He would appear with the artist Hugo Heyrman, dressed in identical double-breasted white suits. The seven photocopied issues of Happening News (1965–1966) document the happenings they organised together as V.A.G.A. (‘Free Action Group Antwerp’). Later he devised a mechanism for the movement of an insect’s wings even before scientists discovered it. He has formulated a credible concept for steering spaceships.  

It is virtually impossible to categorise this artist’s work in a particular style or movement in contemporary art. This is because of the unique and innovative nature of his oeuvre. Panamarenko was always exploring new avenues by means of drawings, writings and calculations. He showed things that were not fully visible and for this purpose relied on his imagination. His combination of artistic insight and technological experiment gives his spectacular constructions an odd sort of beauty, both playful and imposing. ‘I am not a scientist, nor someone who makes art objects. To me the most important thing is that the things I make occasionally contain a sort of poetry.’ In 2005, on his sixty-fifth birthday, Panamarenko announced the end of his artistic career. The fax was as concise as it was unexpected: ‘It is 2005 and I am 65. I am ceasing all activities. Kind regards. Panamarenko’

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