Piet Baumgartner – Maschine? Artwork!

“It makes no sense to put 200 kettles together in one room”, says Piet Baumgartner and transforms the Zurich Wasserkirche into a sea of sound from 200 kettles. A portrait of an unconventional artist with a fondness for machines.    

Piet Baumgartner is happy to invite for tea.

“A Porsche counter app and giving the car a prize; A choreography with electric toothbrushes; Something with a copier or height-adjustable desks,” reads Piet Baumgartner from the notes application on his smartphone.

Baumgartner is an observer – in his work as a director, freelance author and transdisciplinary artist – he sees, takes up and transforms.    

The Love for the Machine

The notes on his phone, earlier works showing two diggers in love dancing ballet or a tennis machine as a stress test for people wearing suits: The machine runs thematically through Baumgartner’s creative work.

The love for it is no coincidence: Growing up in a small town with more cows than inhabitants, a father who owns a machine store and is an inventor and tinkerer, the artist first completed an apprenticeship as a mechanical draftsman before he moved on to television and studied journalism. But even this work does not satisfy his urge to tell stories. Far too often he can only scratch the surface, not tell it to the end.

Thus he finds his way to film and another degree. “The fascination with machines comes from my father. What I like about machines is that you can decouple and remove them from their original use. That makes the machines somehow human,” says Piet Baumgartner.   

Piet Baumgartner, a teacup and the arm of Raffaela Kolb.

Invitation to Tea

Besides life, Baumgartner searches for poetry in the machines. In his latest work, a sound and art installation called “Bittersweet Tea Symphony”, the artist makes 200 tea pots bubble in the Zurich Wasserkirche in October: “I try to make poetry and trigger emotions. It may sound far-fetched, but for me it is about creating new worlds, something that cannot be done in the normal world. It doesn’t make sense to place 200 tea kettles in a room together, but together they are so beautiful and draw the viewer in.

The steaming sea of sound is a collaboration with the musician Rio Wolta, a collaboration that is as harmonious and poetic as their art: “Rio Wolta’s music and my paintings – when they come together, they begin to turn and move. He makes very pictorial music and my pictures are very musical and choreographed,” explains Piet Baumgartner.  

The tea makers in the church should invite different people and trigger different thoughts; whether emotional, technical, about form or color. Baumgartner says: “Thoughts are free and I have no intention of dictating anything with my art. It is an offer.” 

A Pinch of Selfishnes

Piet Baumgartner is artist and craftsman in the heart, approaches new projects unconventionally and not conceptually, tries, tests and from it new things result, for which he looks for then the suitable medium, the suitable channel, be it dance, film, stage or art.

“My art is intuitive, I have an image in my head that I believe in because it is exciting and surprising, visual and sound good. Then I try it out. That’s why I work transdisciplinarily. Basically I don’t care if man or machine, the most important thing is that I like to watch it move. My work is also a bit selfish.” 

Screenshot from Piet Baumgartner’s Instagram.