Panamarenko was born in 1940, in the Belgian city of Antwerp. His father was an electrician who worked in the dry docks in the port area of the city, and his mother ran a shoe shop close to Antwerp's famous Zoological Gardens. He attended the local art school, leaving in 1962, and his use of a pseudonym - his only name as far as his public life is concerned - dates from this time.
Panamarenko's initial way of working was as a performance artist, organising 'Happenings' on the streets of Antwerp. Through these early activities. He rapidly gained a degree of local renown as an artist and made the acquaintance of a more established older generation. Together with Joseph Beuys, and Marcel Broodthaers, Panamarenko shared a desire to create works that would offer more than aesthetic elegance; opening the doors to new forms and new types of experience.
In a career which has spanned more than thirty years, Panamarenko's activity as an artist has always been inextricable from his engagement with science and technology. Although his sculptures are art conjured from the imagination, they are based on his interpretations of the laws of physics, biology, aerodynamics and engineering. Whether mock-ups, working models or studies, all of the works in this exhibition are designed with a seriousness of intent. The mechanical components of individual objects may need adjustment, or more radical re-designing, but the artist's desire - in every case - is to create what will eventually be a fully functional machine.
Panamarenko's machines are designed to free people from gravity, to allow them to escape the forces of terrestrial and magnetic attraction, to experience new forms of travel and movement, and to journey to extraordinary faraway places as yet unknown to human beings. In this sense they are much more than mere inventions. They are the means by which we might begin to imagine how the most mundane details of our lives - the manner in which we move from A to B - could be inexpressibly different and pleasurable. To engage with Panamarenko's work is to engage with a realm of fantasy that demands to be taken seriously. Our ability to understand these machines is entirely dependent on our capacity to believe that they might really work, and in so doing will transport us to another, better world - one that we can leave and return to at will.