Kinetic and Programmed Art was a trend in the contemporary arts that flourished in the 1950s and 1960s. Kinetic artworks often incorporated technology, at that time still immature, and involved the audience in the production of visual, sound and somatic effects. The art curator and former Venice Biennale director Massimiliano Gioni defined the work by programmed artists belonging to Gruppo T (active circa 1959–1968) as one of the biggest taboos of contemporary art in issue no. 957 of Domus magazine. This omission is also connected to the fragile nature of kinetic artworks, which makes them difficult to preserve, exhibit, enjoy and exchange on the art market.
Through an action research project, a group of researchers, designers, and artists has proposed an alternative to the conservation ‘at all costs’ of Gruppo T artworks. Starting from a thorough study of the dynamics of the group and the way the artworks function, a core of new works was created, employing new technologies and making all the concerning documentation available to the public at large under open licenses. These new works were based on concepts and strategies belonging to Gruppo T members. Re-programmed Art: An Open Manifesto is a project that takes the examples of Gruppo T one step further (the concept of an open artwork that can be reproduced and that involves the audience), using the tools and methodologies of the open source model and the maker movement in order to find a new way to overcome the obsolescence of artworks.
This chapter, in turn, focuses on the historical context of Gruppo T’s practice and the objectives of the action research project, aimed at exploring alternative strategies for the preservation of the group’s oeuvre, as well as the analysis of their practice itself. The methodologies employed during the project, together with the results of the project and the detailed analysis of a single case study (the artwork Esacono) are presented below. The conclusion discusses the outcomes of the project, and the status of kinetic artworks in light of their technical obsolescence.