Those who have followed the development of Marc van Broek's artistic work in recent years cannot fail to have noticed both the heightened concentration of overall form and the increasingly congenial nature of its manifestations. The resulting tension may well be the real achievement of his more recent inventive and creative efforts. In his larger projects - Objekte am Bau - the artist has attained greater clarity of form, while the technical-physical construction has gained in aesthetic precision and become more easily comprehensible. The monumental solution is convincing here, as well, by virtue of its reduction, a factor evident in the development of numerous sculptures.
Marc van den Broek's studio resembles more a workshop for experimental mechanics than a romantic artist's retreat. Here one finds old operating-room lamps, tin shears and welding machines alongside strikingly bizarre out-of-date motors, pumps and old cinema seats. All of this could be taken for deliberate stage decoration were it not for the fact that the surrounding industrial architecture has already created this illusion. Thus, taken altogether, the apparatus creates a setting for stimulation and aesthetic reality, a museum-like atmosphere fraught with innovation. Five hundred years ago, the sight of many artists' studios may well have aroused similar astonishment in their contemporaries - the diverse ventures of Leonardo come to mind: was he more an engineer, an anatomist or a painter? To be sure, he perceived his objective in the constructions gleaned from an analysis of the world, which in their beauty reflected the intellectual synthesis of Leonardo, the man and his machines, draft sketches and models are beautiful because they represent a freedom wholly devoted to the enhancement of human capacities in support of the aim of rapid conquest of the entire world: a beginning whose continuation in the 20th century no longer harbors only a positive potential; scientific progress has long since been revealed to mean something more than liberation. Leonardo's new beginning is seen in quite another light today. In the interim - in the course of centuries of development - disciplines have drifted apart. What Leonardo incorporated in a single personality was eventually fragmented into many narrower world views, into mechanics, electronics, anatomy.
Schiller, for whom beauty finds its fulfilment in human freedom, eventually recognized that perfect freedom exists only where it is not made slave to purpose, i.e. in play. Thus Leonardo's partially optimistic beginning, which ultimately did not lead to the liberation of man from himself, is undone. It is this situation that forms the intellectual-cultural background for those artists whose work does not originate directly in the utilitarian compulsion (as it is the case for technicians and scientists). The observer should accept them without the desire to judge or to exploit, allowing the aesthetic experience to point the way to freedom according to the rules of the game. What could be more appropriate for an artist who commands both ingenuity and the will to create without exploitive purpose than to connect these two threads in productive play. In the works of Marc van den Broek, electronics and mechanics "function" quite as they should, and yet their "product" is nothing more than an aesthetic game. The aesthetic form of his objects does not lose itself in pure formalism; instead, it merges - often kept in motion by the mechanisms - to become a comprehensible dynamic force. In the course of the mechanical process, technology and form melt together, purpose and purposelessness unite, the playful becomes beautiful and the beautiful playful; all are free. Marc van den Broek's objects reconcile technology with aesthetics: power-generated movement, plastic form, colourful surface, imaginative themes and profound substance. Utility becomes obsolete; technical beauty rejects both design and marketing. However, his objects do not simply stand about as discursive or decorative complements to their surroundings. They integrate themselves through motion into the setting, giving wings to the oberserver's fantasy at the very moment that his amazement reaches beyond the purely technical and physical. Once the physics have been unmasked, the form itself grips the observer's gaze, and before it can play out its appealing deception it is once again bound up in the function of the object in motion. The movement thus reproduces itself and enfolds the entire surroundings until the observer himself is seized by it. Marc van den Broek is one of the very few artists who have made the problems of physics the subject of their works. He enjoys demonstrating physical phenomena whose effects are more readily experienced than their substance: electricity, light energy, laws of dynamics . . . He does not strive, however, to instruct by means of arranged experiment, but instead binds abstract phenomena to aesthetic form. In this way, the utilitarian character of its function, with which the observer is quite familiar, is paraphrased - in a thoroughly technical manner.
It is not through chance that Marc van den Broek extends the horizons of his fantasy. He has more of Daedalus than of his son, and is in any event too much of an engineer to loose his way in the reflections of his artificial heavens. In the accumulation of his ideas, on the other hand, he is indeed more like Ikarus. Between these poles of his own creation, balance becomes an object that opens itself up to the observer.
Prof. Dr. Otfried Schütza