Tag: Sculpture

In the Atelier Brancusi

In Brancusi’s studio

Reviews/Reports 17.11.12

A sharp, low building at the north end of the Place Georges Pompidou is home to a reverently preserved example of an intriguing type of interior. The building in question was designed by Renzo Piano to house the unique atelier of  Modernist sculptor Constantin Brancusi.

In the words of the Pompidou’s free leaflet, Piano’s reconstuction ‘is not intended to be an ethnological recreation of the layout of the place down to the smallest detail, but to communicate the unity that Brancusi created between his sculptures inside that studio space.’

In the Atelier Brancusi

Apparently Brancusi had amassed a significant number of works within his studio towards the latter end of his career. In that singular space he had them arranged in ‘mobile groups’ – groups of objects in such perfect spatial arrangement that the groups became, to his mind, works in their own right.  He even refused to sell works toward the end of his life, that he might not disrupt the delicate equilibrium which he had created; when works were sold, they were replaced with plaster versions, keeping the spatial balance intact.

In the Atelier Brancusi

In the Atelier Brancusi

As a designer and maker myself, I can relate to the desire to understand a thing which one has made in a spatial context. The desire to put it in a space with other objects, and feel how it pushes and pulls on them.  Indeed, the dust covered groups of objects on our coffee table attest to the difficulty of moving on from a particularly good arrangement of things.

One of the objects on our coffee table at present is a bowl designed by Max Lamb, a contemporary designer who has more than a passing similarity with Brancusi in his approach to forming material. Lamb’s approach to working up forms often seems to involve an engagement in dialogue with material, a give and take in which the material’s response to the sculptor’s strokes is central to the form a piece takes. In the words of the leaflet again, Brancusi ‘considered the material to have a life of its own, a uniqueness that he had to seek out and understand in order to achieve unity with the form, believing that the sculpture was already contained within the material chosen and his task was to reveal it.’

In the Atelier Brancusi

Back in Brancusi’s Atelier, it is difficult not to buy in to his assertion that there is a right way to arrange these objects. There is an exquisite sense within the space that things are as they should be. Despite the absolute stasis of the works, hermetically sealed within Piano’s glass walled studio rooms, there is an exquisite sense of tension and slackness, between the objects, the groups, and the space between them. This is a feeling that was missing when, in June this year, Elizabeth and I saw his Bird in Space on its own at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice. The Atelier Brancusi is beauty in arrangement, and a powerful argument for an understanding of space that goes far beyond the functional.

In the Atelier Brancusi

In the Atelier Brancusi

Entropy Made Visible

Collected Items 29.01.12

This from Robert Smithson’s Interview with Alison Sky, about two months before the artist’s death in 1973.  One wonders what Smithson would have made of the internet.

O.K. we’ll begin with entropy. That’s a subject that’s preoccupied me for some time. On the whole I would say entropy contradicts the usual notion of a mechanistic world view. In other words it’s a condition that’s irreversible, it’s condition that’s moving towards a gradual equilibrium and it’s suggested in many ways. Perhaps a nice succinct definition of entropy would be Humpty Dumpty. Like Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall, all the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty back together again. There is a tendency to treat closed systems in such a way. One might even say that the current Watergate situation is an example of entropy. You have a closed system which eventually deteriorates and starts to break apart and there’s no way that you can really piece it back together again. Another example might be the shattering of Marcel Duchamp Glass, and his attempt to put all the pieces back together again attempting to overcome entropy. Buckminister Fuller also has a notion of entropy as a kind of devil that he must fight against and recycle. Norbert Weiner in The Human Use of Human Beings also postulates that entropy is a devil, but unlike the Christian devil which is simply a rational devil with a very simple morality of good and bad, the entropic devil is more Manichean in that you really can’t tell the good from the bad, there’s no clear cut distinction. And I think at one point Norbert Weiner also refers to modern art as one Niagara of entropy. In information theory you have another kind of entropy. The more information you have the higher degree of entropy, so that one piece of information tends to cancel out the other.

Robert Smithson, Entropy Made Visible, 1973
http://www.robertsmithson.com/essays/entropy.htm