Newton's Buddha

Perpetuum Mobile, 2020


Newton's Buddha

The installation "Newton's Buddha" consists of a Newton pendulum standing in the immediate vicinity of a beckoning cat waving to the pendulum. The waving of the lucky cat is in synchrony with the movement of the Newton pendulum. This special constellation has led to the result that the pendulum does not stop after some time as usual, but moves infinitely back and forth in sync with the beckoning of the cat. Thus the encounter of the lucky cat with the Newton pendulum seems to banish the devil of physics and removes the Pillars of Hercules or the limits of the possible. In fact, this work makes it possible to experience a perpetual motion machine. Similar to the "TV Buddha" by Nam June Paik, in which Eastern divinity and Western media shake hands, here Eastern philosophy also beckons the history of European thinking.

The main protagonist of the work is a (mostly rather smiled at) beckoning or lucky cat that conjures monsters in the immediate vicinity of a Newtonian pendulum, and "disturbs the sleep of scientific reason" (Kaplan, 1991). The work deals with the law of conservation of energy (Helmholtz, 1847) and with the related emergence of the idea of perpetual motion machines (Scheerbart, 1984), which contributes to transforming the certainty "that nature is completely committed to laws conceived by man" (Pertigen, 2000, p.22). The claim to universal validity of a physical phenomenon and the self-evident nature associated with it is thereby functionally and aesthetically undermined. Their supposed sovereignty, the ability to trace the meaning of phenomena back to regularities, is thwarted with senselessness and sensuality. Benefit and rationality are mocked by engineering science from their own technical ranks. And quite incidentally, the unattainable myth of the perpetual motion machine is evidently defeated by a cat.


Helmholtz, H. v. (1847). Über die Erhaltung der Kraft. Berlin.
Kaplan, L. (1991). Witzenschaftliche Weltbetrachtungen: das verdammte Universum des Charles Fort. Matthias Gatza, Berlin.
Paik, N. J. (1976). TV Buddha.
Pertigen, E. (2000). Der Teufel in der Physik: eine Kulturgeschichte des Perpetuum mobile. Verlag Informationen für Technik und Wissenschaft (IT & W), Berlin.
Scheerbart, P. (1984). Das perpetuum mobile: die Geschichte einer Erfindung. Porto Editori S.A.L.


Lucky Cat, Newton pendulum