Kinetic Saturdays make art sing at Mat Bevel
Local artist Ned Schaper performs in Mat Bevel Institute on Saturday, April 1.
The Mat Bevel Institute, a company founded by brother and sister team Ned and Paula Schaper, has big plans after a successful six-month run of Kinetic Saturdays at The Museum of Kinetic Art.
Kinetic Saturdays is an event that takes place on the first Saturday of each month, when the Museum of Kinetic Art opens to the public. During the event, Ned Schaper performs as Mat Bevel and wears multiple sculptures to tell stories and poems as different characters.
The museum holds a special display of over 100 mobile sculptures constructed from found objects, including bike parts, pinwheels, toys, buckets, instruments, shoes and scrap metal. All of them have a kinetic element; the studio is filled with noises of whirring, buzzing, clanking and twinkling from thousands of moving parts.
Every machine is engaged in its own little song and dance. What is especially unique about these moving sculptures is their higher purpose in the world of Beveldom.
“These are all characters, and sets, and musical instruments and motorized vehicles that are part of this magical world of Beveldom in the theater,” said co-founder Paula Schaper. “That makes them even more special because they’re not for sale, they have this purpose in theater.”
Each sculpture has a name and a story.
There is Lover Boy, a Tinman-esque character with a metal heart that lights up. Sharka is a giant replica of a shark, with an impressive likeness to the real creature. She has an ironing board for a stomach, a car grille for a tail and a badminton racket and a tiara that chomp together to form a jaw.
Other miscellaneous items like string, clothespins, wheels, and chains work together to make Sharka swim in midair.
There are several people, one with a mop for hair and another with light bulbs for eyes. There are butterflies made of various metals, wire, wood and colored plastic. There are birds and fish, all with their own names and backgrounds.
Ned Schaper is the artistic mind behind the Surrealistic Pop Science Theater and the museum. He created all the sculptures and wrote the poems and songs that he performs as his characters.
Some favorites are the dutiful soldier Heckno Techno, who performs a thoughtful song through mismatched sunglasses, and the corporate leader Mr. Chairperson, with three troll dolls attached to an antenna and wheels.
The characters are made of junk and unwanted items. None of the sculptures are planned, but are instead spontaneously put together based on Schaper’s people-watching research. According to an overview of the company, Schaper does not know what the objects will be when he starts making them.
“By working with the materials of the found object, he lets the object’s ultimate function emerge on its own, which leads to beautiful and unexpected results,” the flyer said.
After the found objects become characters, Schaper writes music and poetry to perform as the character. The castaway objects then find meaning in performance and impart wisdom and truth about life through the art.
“This is more like a church service, because you’re in here with the junk and it’s inspired. It’s all put together uncontrived,” said artist Ned Schaper. “You end up feeling like you’re in here with a bunch of found objects, and they told you what life is really about.”
The Museum of Kinetic Art is a project 30 years in the making.
Though Schaper’s background is in etymology and physics, he found himself performing on the streets of Manhattan in the 1980s. In 1992, he established Mat Bevel Institute as an avant-garde, street performance theater. His art focuses on the principles of ART, or Available Resource Technology.
Kinetic Saturdays is part of a bigger vision of Mat Bevel, and video is the main product. During the events, Schaper has been acquiring video footage and making connections in the Tucson community to eventually produce both a show about the characters in Beveldom and a virtual reality tour. Lars Marshall, longtime friend of the Schaper’s and supporter of the company, helps record and produce video material for future projects.
“I don’t get it when people don’t get it. He tells you amazing philosophical lessons through humor,” said Marshall.
Kinetic Saturdays will end for the season on May 6 and reopens in October.
The Museum of Kinetic Art is located at 2855 E. Broadway Blvd.
For more information contact Paula Schafer at 520-604-6273 or visit the website matbevelcompany.org.
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