Kees van Raaij

'Einsteins Gehirrn' ('Einstein's Brain') - 2005


Location: Helix building, conference room, floor 2

Visual artist Kees van Raaij (1946) has a fascination for technology, and especially for mechanical constructions. He dismantles old machines in order to make new ones, like this 'Einstein's Brain', one of the several versions of this work he made.

According to Van Raaij, Einstein was just an average student in high school, who nevertheless went on to be one of the greatest scientists of all time. 'Einstein's Gehirrn' is activated by a sensor that sets in motion little rods through a system of springs and sprocket wheels. Van Raaij: "Apart from that it's really nothing special, and that also goes for the other brains I made. But then again, when scientists examined the brain of Einstein after his death in the nineteen fifties, they didn't find anything special either."

Van Raaij is no stranger to humour. He once demolished a photocopier and then put the 3,500 components into crates carrying labels reading 'This is what it takes to Zerox' (to photocopy). Partly for that reason he describes himself as an 'atmospherologist' or a 'manic realist': "I live near so many 'ologists' that I labelled myself an 'atmospherologist'. Atmosphere is what my work is all about. If people see my work and can smile at it, then they got the message. It's like with the machines made by Tinguely, the French artist of whom I am a great admirer."

Van Raaij first came into contact with TU/e when he held an exhibition on the occasion of his brother in law's retirement. Professor Hans Niemantsverdriet liked his work so much that he decided to acquire 'Einstein's Gehirrn'. When he visited Van Raaij at his home, he saw that Van Raaij has also painted on a wall Einstein's quote: "Alles soll so einfach wie möglich gemacht werden, aber nicht einfacher" ("Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not more than that"). Niemantsverdriet considered that a quite appropriate motto for the modelling research group at the department of Chemical Engineering, where sometimes a thing like selecting the settings of a research setup before a test can be carried out may take half a year. Therefore, Van Raaij also painted the motto on a wall on floor 3 of the STW building.