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Just Exploring the Tinguely Museum

Hike. Visit family. Drink Rivella and eat sausage on mountains. These are the things I usually do in Switzerland. Visiting museums is not a top priority on Swiss trips, but I would visit Basel's Tinguely Museum every time. 

Jean Tinguely was a Swiss sculptor best known for his kinetic sculptures. He collaborated with his second wife, Niki de Sainte Phalle, on the Stravinksy Fountain next to the  Pompidou Center in Paris. He's got a piece, Chaos I, in Columbus, Indiana. Basel has his Faschnachts-Brunnen  (literally, Carnival Fountain, but apparently it also goes by just "the Tinguely fountain") -- and the museum. 

I love a good interactive museum. The City Museum in St. Louis is less of a museum and more of a dangerous playground, but the Tinguely reminds me of it. In the main hall, you can climb stairs up and through a two-story conglomeration of steel, giant wheels, ladders, a carousel horse, fake geraniums in a window box, and an upside-down garden gnome dipped in and out of a vat of water.


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Another garden gnome

Stamping on large buttons placed on the floor in front of the sculptures sets them into motion.To preserve the sculptures, timers monitor how frequently button-pushing activates them, so sometimes you push and nothing happens. You move on. Then the next guy comes along, and the sculpture's clanking scares you into scurrying back to catch it in action. 

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This one makes music

The Tinguely is also home to one of the more terrifying sculptures I've seen. Tinguely used the remains of a burned-down farm house to build Mengele-Totentanz. It is like a nightmare you're shocked your brain would give you. With time, this room's shadows, chains, and skulls fade to a creepy memory, pushed aside in favor of the museum's big, clangy, fun pieces. I thought maybe it was a temporary installation, but no, it's always there, waiting for my next visit. And despite the creepiness, I'll always be open to another visit.