Stunt Art 
The works in a Carnegie museum show perform for the audience. 

By JOSEF WOODARD, Special to The Times

     Enter the strange, sensory circus that is Andy Schuessler's new series of 20 artworks at your own risk. Stepping into the upstairs gallery of the Carnegie Art Museum triggers madcap activity from Schuessler's new kinetic "found object" sculptures.
      Sounds ping and clatter, machinery lurches into action and lights flash in syncopated rhythms. There is probably no physical danger in taking in this work, as crazy as its machinery is, but one's natural sober detachment in an art space is seriously threatened. 
     Operative words: quirky, absurd, oddly graceful and, high on the list, physical and mechanical. There is nothing virtual about it. Yet, for all of its ample fun factor--this is a show genuinely suitable and recommendable for the whole family--Schuessler's show, "Sounding Boards," also broaches some serious issues. 
     This art elicits questions about the shift of values in the post-machine age, the waning of real-world palpability in the cyber age and the importance of concrete action and artifact in contemporary art. 
     Schuessler is clearly a tinkerer with an obvious love of crackpot inventions, for art's sake. This much we know from his last exhibit at the Carnegie. The new show, though, is more focused, at least in terms of an extant theme giving rise to variations. 
     All the works, a medium described by the artist as "electro-mech assemblage," begin with ironing boards, which serve as both an armature upon which to build and an expressive element in themselves. Gadgets, motors, lights, pulleys and other parts are attached, and each piece performs a specific function or stunt, sometimes self-triggering and sometimes made to act by our intervention, via buttons, switches and foot switches. 
     Taken at face value, these clever constructions can be appreciated as evidence of the artist's vaguely dadaistic gizmo savvy. But they also invite further metaphorical interpretations. In "Clock of Heaven/Hammer of God," a weight is raised and lowered, in a banging motion, by a fishing pole arm, a repetitive action at once funny and a touch ominous. 
     "Night Light," with its absurd, fondling metal part, is innocent enough, although it could also be read as sexual. In "Aught Aught," a slow-motion music box part tinkles and a spring with a metal head bangs on a silver serving tray. "It's a Wiggly, Wiggly World" is activated with a foot switch, which makes a wooden object on a spring wobble, as if subjected to shock therapy. Clap twice in front of "Plaundo" and a bell rings, a call-and-response equation. 
     "Mobius" is all about the twisted shape of a chain as it spins slowly in an oblong circle. Most of the actions are deceptively calm and understated. Things get nudged about or pushed into sound-making results, but nothing dramatic or overtly "meaningful" occurs. 
     The medium, and its cause-and-effect motions, are very much the message. A cavalcade of funky, goofball art machines, it's a must-see show, proving that art can move, in more ways than one. 

Copyright 2000 Los Angeles Times