Jim Whiting in studio kneeling while smiling at and holding his incomplete human-like mechanized sculpture for his Mechanical theater for 1987 Luna Luna park.

Jim Whiting

For Luna Luna, Jim Whiting created a “Mechanical Theater” of clothed animatronic figures, props, and scenery, mostly made of discarded materials. Within a large square tent, torso-less dancing trousers and mechanical humans formed a nightmarish Luna Park inspired by the social exchanges of everyday life.

Artist

Jim Whiting

Attraction

Mechanical theater

Born

1951, France

Created animatronic props for Herbie Hancock’s 1984 music video Rockit, awarded five MTV Video Music Awards, including Best Art Direction and Most Experimental Video that year.

For twenty-five years, Whiting ran the nightclub Bimbo Town in Basel, Switzerland and Leipzig, Germany a space for animatronic installations and experimental performances.

Whiting’s mechanical sculptures are in the lineage of kinetic art pioneer Jean Tinguely.

Jim Whiting, Mechanical theatre, exhibited 1987.
Jim Whiting, Mechanical theater, exhibited 1987.

Swiss-British artist Jim Whiting (born 1951, Paris, France; lives and works in Leipzig, Germany) creates monumental installations in which animatronic figures and robots dance, spin, and gyrate. Like Swiss artist Jean Tinguely, Whiting is fascinated by the possibilities of mechanical structures that autonomously set themselves in motion. His pneumatic human-machine installations are largely inspired by his experience with a medical condition that forced him to wear a black leather-and-steel leg brace that ignited recurring dreams about mechanical torture.

Jim Whiting, Mechanical theater, exhibited 1987.
Jim Whiting, Mechanical theater, exhibited 1987.

In Whiting’s installations, or “mechanical theaters,” animatronic characters such as dancing trousers or mannequins in high heels recreate daily social situations with humor and irony. The otherworldly creations reached widespread acclaim after they appeared in the music video for jazz musician Herbie Hancock’s “Rockit” (1984)—a distorted take on middle-class domesticity with jerky robot-like figures spinning, taking baths, and reading the newspaper.

Whiting’s installations, or “mechanical theaters,” animatronic characters such as dancing trousers or mannequins in high heels recreate daily social situations with humor and irony.

From 1992 until 2017, Whiting’s nightclub Bimbo Town, originally housed in a former factory in Basel, Switzerland, featured a constantly evolving collection of Whiting’s animatronic structures in scenes ranging from a hair salon to a church. Originally envisioned as an art installation by Basel gallery owner Klaus Littman, Bimbo Town became an experimental site where mechanized bodies coexisted with live performances and audience participation.

Jim Whiting, Preparatory sketches for Mechanical theater, exhibited 1987.

For Luna Luna, Whiting created a Mechanical Theater of robots and mannequins made largely out of found objects and discarded junk. Within an enclosed stage, torso-less dancing trousers and human-machine figures—at a bar or suspended above a car crash—formed a nightmarish luna park inspired by social exchanges of everyday life.

Jim Whiting, Mechanical theater, exhibited 1987.
Jim Whiting, Mechanical theater, exhibited 1987.

Discover more about your favorite artists and attractions

In the original Luna Luna book, translated and reissued for the first time since 1987.