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In 1957, Heinz Mack and Otto Piene founded the ZERO movement, which Günther Uecker joined in 1961. ZERO, to be understood as ground zero, from which new artistic principles and aesthetic ideas were to be developed, characterizes the zeitgeist after WW II.
Daring creative experiments were ventured in the atelier, accompanied by spectacular actions and environments, which have become legendary. This European art movement drew together artists such as Yves Klein, Lucio Fontana, Piero Manzoni, Enrico Castellani, Jean Tinguely and Jan Schoonhoven who had a distinct influence on ZERO, while receiving energy and ideas from ZERO at the same time.
The ZERO artists came to the fore through their use of innovative, non-art materials, such as polished metal foil, aluminium nets, mirrors, optical lenses, and acrylic glass. By using these reflective, distorting, or transparent materials, they strove for a dematerialisation of their work. On the surfaces of works like Mack’s Reflector Stele (1966-68), light gathers and exponentiates itself and is reflected back into the space with increased intensity. In his Sahara Project (1959), Mack envisioned a Jardin Artificiel in the desert involving his own artwork and that of his contemporaries.
Furthermore, ZERO artists used unstable and volatile substances and phenomena such as fire, smoke, ice, water, mist, wind, and light, which equally contributed to the dematerialisation of the works. In their efforts to harmonise the relationship between humans and nature, they declared the four elements to be the tools of their art. This dialogue between art, nature and technology is carried on today by artists like Ólafur Elíasson and Julian Charrière.
Dr. Sophia Sotke, born in Düsseldorf in 1987, is a research assistant at the studio of Prof. Heinz Mack. In collaboration with the artist, she organizes his exhibitions in Germany and abroad as well as his publications and catalogues raisonnés. Sophia Sotke graduated with a Master’s degree in History and Art History from Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf in 2014. In 2020, she completed her doctoral thesis on Heinz Mack’s Sahara Project in the international context of ZERO and Land Art with Prof. Dr Günter Herzog at the University of Cologne. Her book Mack – Sahara was published by Hirmer in spring 2022
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