Robert Breer’s Lesser-known “Floats”

| January 18th, 2012, 6:48 PM

It occurs to me that most of my posts thus far have related to something or other that has been unearthed in the process of digging around in old files. Either I love archives or just intersect with them a lot in the course of my working life… In any case, it figures that when I read Art Forum‘s recent “Passages” piece on artist-filmmaker (and 2004 Carnegie International artist), Robert Breer, who died last summer, I immediately thought of something I found in the Film Section file cabinets a while back. So here’s a tribute to Breer, nerdy archival style…

Most people talk about the domed kinetic sculptures (slow moving, self-propelled objects that the artist called “floats”) that Breer built for the Pepsi Cola Pavilion at Expo ’70 in Osaka, Japan.  And rightly so: the Pavilion was a crowning achievement for Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T.). People who lived in Pittsburgh during the mid-1970s, however, might best remember Breer for the three floats he made for the 1974 Three Rivers Arts Festival– a mechanized crumpled plastic mass, pyramid, and stacked box “ziggurat” that crept slowly around a plaza near Gateway Center. So slowly in fact, that their movement was nearly imperceptible, until the viewer turned around to find the arrangement had changed.

I grew up in Pittsburgh but hadn’t been born yet, so it was (exciting!) news to me when I discovered the documentation in the artist’s Film Section file. There was apparently a concurrent gallery exhibition of some of Breer’s smaller kinetic works, but I haven’t been able to find out where that took place. Some photos to share anyway, pending more research.

Please comment if you know something more about this project, or if you know who the photographer was…

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