Beginning in performance, as a member of the group SHRIMPS from 1984-93, Kersels went on to make a series of what he called ‘performative objects’, machines or sculptural devices which move and/or generate sounds, taking over the gallery, and functioning as awkward stand-ins for the artist himself. In Twist (1993) a found prosthetic leg (complete with sock and shoe) hangs from a thick skein of rubber bands (…). At a certain point, the twisted rubber bands cause the leg to thrash around pointlessly, hurling itself into the wall. (…) More recently, Kersels built Tumble Room (2001), inspired by the scene in Stanley Donen’s film Royal Wedding (1951) in which Fred Astaire dances up walls and across a ceiling. (…)
Recently Kersels has made non-kinetic sculpture which retains a connection to the ideas of scale (mass, weight) and pathos (automatism, failure) that run through his other work: Fat Man (2002), Sleeper’s Dream (2003), Dionysian Stage (2005). (…) Kersels’ work is articulated around his own “being in the world” — so big, so flawed, so vulnerable, so ridiculous, so strong. Lately he’s been examining a further dimension of that reality, the dimension that acknowledges nationality, America, where strength can mean potential for violence, where vulnerability requires retaliation. If his work has explored the sometimes fraught, always absurd relations between bodies and things, specifically bodies and machines, then part of what interests me is the automatism, the aspect of being human that’s outside our control. It’s the idea, having a ball, compulsive, unstoppable, going on and on until it pulls its own plug out of the wall. Martin Kersels’ work is profoundly anti-authoritarian, proposing the artist as bricoleur, as autodidact, pursuing idiosyncratic, individual research to find out what he needs for his specific purposes.