Gerrit van Bakel

(b. 1943, Ijsselsteijn, Brabant – d. 1984, Deurne, Brabant)

From the 1960s on, Gerrit van Bakel became more and more convinced that the world in which we live, and our own immediate environment needed to be drafted all over again on the basis of elementary needs and very simple principles. Between 1966–72 he developed ideas on housing and designed furniture. The realization of these designs were mostly limited to two main kinds: children’s toys and furniture. Later, he produced machines in which kinetic principles were exploited in a variety of different forms. The works of van Bakel stem from his personal convictions about technology and its history, about specific properties of materials and physical phenomena. Van Bakel’s “machines” do not produce material products, but encourage curiosity and imagination.

The central themes of his work are movement, energy, time and temperature, via which many of them fundamentally critique methods of advanced technology. For example his Utah-machine (Behorend bij de Utah-Tarim connectie) [Utah machine (part of the Utah Tarim connection)] (1980) “takes on” the Blue Flame rocket that achieved the world land speed record of almost 1015 km/h in the Utah salt flats. Van Bakel’s machine is “driven by the sun” and in fact is nothing more than a moving wheel held up by a pair of supporting struts. The counterpart of the Utah-machine is the much bigger Tarim machine (1982) which was intended to cross the Tarim Basin in Tibet with a distance of 1100 km. Van Bakel gave these two works the combined title Utah-Tarim connectie [The Utah-Tarim connection]. Theoretically the Blue Flame would be able to cross the Tarim Basin in around one hour, while the Tarim machine would take 30 million years to cross it.