3/2002; page 43-46, quarterly published by Center of Polish Sculpture
In Orońsko, Poland. Translation
of the text by Adam Kalinowski.
" Cannot disasters like earthquakes, cyclones, tornadoes and so on be imagined
as the most perfect form of art?"
Walter de Maria, the sixties.
A good form is like a spirit, which does not hold any tights, is like
particles of smoke traveling crosswise of time.
Let's try to use the open space as a lens through which we look at
Open space is an immemorial sphere of man's free exploration, i.e.
activity, whose results one cannot entirely predict or control. As far
as the spiritual matters are concerned, the open, not urbanized space
can mean liberation or even salvation. It can also be a metaphor for
art, which must be independent of the past, but also of the "actuality".
Art should once again confront us with the siatuation in which the art
habits will turn out to be relative and unnecessary. It must evoke a
pure, uncontaminated mind which would be ready for foreseeing the changes.
The task of art is to stimulate our mind to unite with broadly understood
cosmos. I believe that as a result of this union we free ourselves from
Ourselves and open up to "the Whole".
An important aspect of my outdoor projects is nature that is being used
in the way as it normally is, showing its constancy, and - to a certain
degree - its fortuity and consequence. I believe that the equilibrium
of nature can be a base for obtaining our own human equilibrium. Changes
in nature are slow and non-dramatic, only exceptionally more impetuous
events like tornadoes or earthquakes take place. Does not the equilibrium
of nature, which we are part of, make us feel like being balanced inside?
On the other hand, we need deep refreshment of the mind so in my opinion
that's the reason why some kind of paradox should be involved in the
project. In general my idea about outdoor projects is that they are left
for themselves in natural context, left for nature's activity and powers
so they respect their powers in a way that they are powered by them,
literally and metaphorically, too. Isn't that so that the model of a
sculpture or other architectural realisation like shouldn't be living
organisms? Should not their ability to self-regulation be treated as
most important? An architectural or sculptural object as a dynamic, self-regulating
organism, co-operating with nature. Lets shape the external form the
way as to expose it to the influence of nature. The self-regulating sculpture
or architecture - we have here practical aspect; co-operation with nature,
can bring only advantages. Ethical one; we must care about the world,
the recourses of which are much more smaller and restricted than we have
thought up to the present, and also cognitive one: we get deeper knowledge
about the environment we live in. There is an option nowadays to treat
design of external projects, no matter whether more complicated systems
or simple forms as a self regulating structures, co-operating and finally
becoming similar in the manner of operation to nature's activities. Objects
in space without unequivocal purpose, powered by the wind, changing under
the influence of the temperature or light, joining us with space in direct
and more remote dimension. Nature, the regulating environment, forming
to a certain degree the object which interacting with the environment,
establishes and conducts with it a kind of dialogue either because of
technical and practical reasons, as in the case of e.g. architectural
or other objects, or because of symbolic reasons, as in the case of artistic
facts. In general sense, each external form must interact with the environment
because open space as a dynamic system forces particular states on the
objects contained in it. *1 This external form should rather be the opposite
of the Machine *2. Each part of this form can be the centre of it (as
in the case of living organisms or clouds). The form treated not as an
object but as a kind of representation (embracing) of space, pointing
to its dynamic and energetic character. We have here to do with simple
transference of an artistic metaphor to the world as a whole. *3 Whether
the sphere of art shouldn't be a field of undetermined activity, for
example working of nature in a clear form? Symphony of chance, showing
order of cosmos. Why nature? Nature is a puzzle, still half-magic, half-impenetrable
scientifically space. Here important aspect of external form is a fact,
that is left to nature, devoted to it's rule, and not belong to us anymore.
II. The Transparent Symbol suits to the form, devoted to and living
thanks to space. This form does not fix attention on itself; more
functioning depends on natural processes or can activate perception of
them. The external realisation is meant to be a lens, a place of concentration
of meanings, which refer to our being-in-space, experiencing it and consequently
opening up to it. The matter of form, being an incarnation of transparent
symbol, is used in such a way that what is used as symbolizing is simultaneously
symbolized. "Knowledge" of nature spread out in infinite space
is, as it were, "what" is symbolized. A work of art wants to
refer to this knowledge, make it visible. It seems obvious that every
artistic fact refers to the natural spatial context for which it was
created and in which it exists. For example a musical performance must
cooperate and interact with natural sound system of the environment,
in which it is performed. An object of sculptural or architectural type
the more perfect cooperates with the context of environment - with simultaneously
intensively symbolic interaction - with the more distinguished artwork
we have to do. This interaction with the environment can present itself
in different ways. It could be a realisation almost in the spirit of
mimicry, but it could also be a sort of antibody in space. Transparent
symbols appear to be an important choice in the face of nature.We can
assume that transparency, as a metaphor referring to human mind is a
certain cultural value. Not literally contained in Buddhist removal,
loss of an ego, as an unnecessary filter distorting our relation with
the Reality. Similar examples we can find in Christian tradition (medieval
mystics). Transparent symbol suits to the form devoted and living the
space. The form is not focusing on itself, more often it's functioning
as a dependent on natural processes or can activate their perception.
The form being an embodiment of a transparent symbol does not change
the settings in which it is placed but is integrated with them. Not disturbing
these settings it shows their whole symbolic power - as it was supposed
to. The wisdom of nature spread out in the space is what is symbolized.
An artifact whishes to relate to this wisdom and to expose it. To expose "through" the
context of natural space the philosophical aspect of our being-in-the-world
as the world of natural process that we are part of. The part originated
in a long cycle of filo- and ontogenetic evolution. The question arises
here: could not the external form relate to (join) the long evolutionary
dance that takes place during ontogenesis?*4
" The Sky Reaching Hammock"
The point is not to disturb the stream of time and space by reckless
activity, but to join with it. We should not create forms or situations
interfering in Nature, instead we can try to discover her mysteries,
as it were, to knock at them. Commonness, fleetingness, kinesis (variability)
- these are the most important features of time and space where any element
is not more important than any other, the tiniest piece is equally valuable
to any other being. Giving sense is only the fact of existence of the
Whole, Life, in all its appearances and variations, which is meaningful
for the very fact of existence. "The Sky Reaching Hammock" makes
possible dynamic meditation, embracing haven and earth, during which
the feeling of unity and simultaneously independency from surrounding
space joins with the celebration of what means nothing and has no purpose,
like for example flowing clouds, the shining sun or falling rain. *5
A slow, simultaneous change in time-and-space is meant to create the
state of timelessness (giving oneself to time and space without a priori
accepted intention; everything is of the same value) *6, "resetting
consciousness" whose vectors are directed towards feeling of space,
spreading from inside of our body into infinity and vice versa. Our "positioning" in
real space thanks to the wind, a phenomenon of nature, gives dimension
our action towards Her. *7. Nature factually and symbolically directs
us towards herself so that we could discover that may have been experienced
by primal man wandering through the boundless spaces of Africa, Eurasia
or America. *8 In this case the purpose of this "zero state" is
putting aside for a moment the culture equipment in order to refresh
the mind as it happens in every free change of consciousness. "Timelessness",
psychological appropriating the whole world, feeling of endless becoming
is the result of influence on us of every eminent artwork. In this project,
mentioning the category of timelessness has more direct reference because
the module in which the passenger is placed indeed is suspended in the
middle of time" and "space", and this is not only a psychological
feeling of the person taking part in the event. Important is the factor
of lack of control, at least momentary one, over intensity and direction
of changes, in which will be directed the "crew module".
III. Can we consider personal inner change in the present-day world without
taking account of the natural environment, strongly transformed by civilizing
aspect of our culture? (It refers above all to the American culture which
especially emphasises the pragmatic and technological side of life).
Such questions were put as well by the creators of great, monumental
realisations of Land Art. Often the material used in these realisations
was of organic origin. The use of raw material as a work of art is itself
something symbolical. Let's take Robert Smithson's "Spiral Jetty":
the piled jetty on which we walk is a kind of technical mechanism which
enables us stepping "inside" a lake, without dipping our feet.
At the same time when stepping into the physical world we travel across
time, where time, at least in the millennium scale, co-creates the symbolic
dimension of work. "Spiral Jetty" of Robert Smithson refers
to the primeval symbol of spiral which from time immemorial occurred
in many cultures of the world. Simultaneously the galaxies arrange themselves
in the spiral shape or, closer to us, in this shape are concentrated
clouds seen in the earth's atmosphere from the space. This pre- symbolism
of organic character suggests precedence of nature over human, artistic
enterprises. Like other realisations of this kind, it also is, or rather
was *9, placed in the wilderness, in the Great Salt Lake in Utah (USA).
The open, not urbanised space and the primeval symbol of spiral, piled
of sand in the lake, take us into the journey, into temporally indeterminate
mythological moment. The familiar shape evokes immemorial human desire
of expressing the eternity and changeability of existence, which is connected
with evolution of the whole nature, and referring to the forms occurred
in it. This realisation is designed to make such an impression as if
it has been existing for thousands years, or it could be a relic of unknown
culture (!?). On the other side, the communicative energy of this form,
emerging as if from the abyss of time, and placed in beautiful in its
uselessness place, directs us into the future, which is to be governed
by the spirit of dialectical entropy. This is an example of realisation,
which is to be defined by long temporal intervals - at least in the millennium
scale. The other realisations Smithson places in the regenerated areas
in Holland, remains of a mine or a rubbish dump where important is the
aspect of metaphorical "recycling", because according to his
conception of entropy, in principle, nothing in fact can be recycled.
The sites polluted by human exploitation of nature and such are mines
or rubbish dumps, they have at themselves already possessed something
metaphorical, they are sites, non-sites in the same time. This, and his
other realisations, are beautiful in its simplicity and the unsentimental
examples which symbolically balance all that is good in an artwork against
that is bad, and that makes up the wasted land. Affirmation of that what
is devastated, desolate or waste helps us once again to "recycle" the
Earth. Other projects were made in Holland, a country where the transformation
of landscape has gone pretty far - "Spiral Hill" and "Broken
Circle". The former project has probably eroded and transformed
long time ago. Similarly, stylish "Broken Circle" refers to
hydro-geological tradition of the Dutch struggling against the water
element. They are perhaps a commentary on very sophisticated European
culture, which however nowadays looks like a neatly maintained cultural
reserve in which the main occupation is tearing off the coupons of the
past *10. "Amarillo Ramp" was built in Texas, the country of
big spaces, in the year of the untimely death of the author. It is a
kind of ramp piled of sand, in the form of circle, in which we can walk
further, ahead... or having stopped embrace the whole space in which
the earthwork is placed.
The important factor giving sense to these realisations is the awareness
of their transformation - like every object existing in the space they
are also transforming and eventually they will be disintegrated*11
Another example can be Walter de Maria's "The Lighting Field".
Here the artefact is minimise to the smallest degree; it is a set of
steel poles arranged regularly in the rectangle shape, whose area is
one mile by one kilometre and where the main hero of the event remains
the forces of nature - lightning, the view of the sky before and after
the storm , thunders, etc. This realisation does not have any particular
semantics; the nature is here the main actor and director of the show.
The important aspect of the work is its isolation from civilized places
and culture centres. It is placed in the desert in New Mexico and getting
there takes more or less two days. Its being, far away is the crucial
matter, it simultaneously touches our being far from Nature, from her
causative energies and its enormous infinite scale. In other realisations
of Land Art we have to do with similar situations. Staying far away,
especially for the city man, opens up before him an unknown spatial-temporal
scale, which could possess the advantage of spiritual concentration,
necessary for discovering art. At the beginning of the sixties, Walter
de Maria wrote: "Cannot disasters like earthquakes, cyclones, tornadoes
and so on be imagined as the most perfect form of art?". What overgrows
us, on which we are dependent, is important because it defines the horizon
of our dwelling on the Earth in every possible meaning of this word.
Such the most important factor was nature, the open space in which human
population develops]. However, although our relation to the open space
has been changing gradually from the Stone Age, through ancient times,
the Middle Ages, the first industrial revolution, and from more or less
the interwar period up to the present time this relation has changed
essentially, yet most of our vital conditionings on psychological side
or in relation to the cosmos has not changed. We are in similar situation
as far as the perception of our life is concerned, regardless if we look
back 100, 1000 or 10 000 years. Another constant thing is for example
the awareness of the fact that day by day the universe is coming closer
and closer to the nothingness, non-existence.
In monumental realisations Land Art its romantic origin is characteristic.
This origin underlines dependence of man on nature which appears to be the
personification of casual as well as everlasting mythological energies whose
catalyser are meant to be the earthworks.
What do we place a sculpture in the open space for? In order that it could
embrace the open space joining with it, at the same time symbolically radiating
around. The same refers to time. The sculpture must be the place of concentration
of time and space, and simultaneously a filter through which the spatial-temporal
surrounding is passing. If it does not satisfy this condition, it is a needless
object littering the landscape. The question of responsibility of artist who
creates outdoor realisation is very important. We are not allowed to litter
the world which is also the realm of collective imagination - it belongs to
all of us. We have to take care of the Earth, because we and She is one.
Captions below photos:
"The Sky-reaching Hammock",
Project of kinetic outdoor form. Proposed whole dimensions: 2200x7200x7200
cm, steel, steel line, propellers with reducer, clutches.
Model in a scale of 1:9
The project was awarded at 10th International Design Competition, 2001,
Osaka, Japan, (Place 3 )
The form of orange color hangs loosely between three masts. On each of
them there are windmills, which are directed towards different wind directions.
Thanks to the system of reducers, they rise or put down particular sides
of hung form so that it is turning very slowly almost in every surface
and also slowly walks up and down, left or right in the determine space
between the masts. This space could be imagined in the form of a equilateral
triangle with [of] sides more or less 20 m long and height 15 m. The
form hung between the masts is designed only for one person who staying
inside it (that is he/she would have to be tied with safety belts) could
experience the change of position towards horizon and the surface of
earth. The direction and intensity of slow, however, incessant movement
of the form is unpredictable because it depends on the power and direction
of the wind.
"The Sky-Reaching Cube" 2002,
Sculpture Space, Utica, USA
Wooden sticks, latex balloons, helium, 380 x 380 x 380 cm.
The loosely released form behaves like a balloon in the air.
*1 The form which to a high degree would be receptive
to influence of nature: light - sun batteries, (photosynthesis),
temperature - thermal
batteries, wind - windmills or quasi-practical objects built
out of foam - ephemeral etc. As a result we would have the form performing
ceaseless dance in space (as then when about 3,5 milliards years
ago life on earth was arising). And what if one had added to it the biological
processes? Would we not then have a symbolic form which would
as a living organism and in such a way would become the part
of ecosphere? Could the external form not refer to the long evolutionary
takes place during ontogenesis. Such a realisation placed e.g.
in a desert, isolated place, but also urbanized one, could have an interesting
context. Perhaps the future of designing belongs to treating,
especially external forms, according to needs and possibilities, as self-regulating
structures, cooperating and consequently becoming similar in
of acting to organisms or natural systems. We would have here
the situation in which an artificial structure is so designed that partially
similar in action to a living organism.
*2 Whose equivalent is The Closed Model and whose reverse is
a living organism remaining in free interaction with the environment
and being embodiment of The Open Model towards Nature.
*3 Should not every fragment of a form be its centre? (As is the case
with living organisms or clouds?) The form treated not as an object but
as a kind of representation (embracing) of the space focusing on its
dynamic and energetic character. (We have here a simple metaphor of the
world as a whole). Could not any point of the space or cosmos be its
centre point? (Thousands years of civilisations and cultures from various
parts of the globe have a positive answer to this question.)
*4 Can a realisation placed directly in nature be different from it,
or should it rather be a whole with it? Being a whole with the real space
it must valorise it. (Perhaps, like in immense ancient buildings we should
mark the proportions of the object?) Great metaphors and grass on the
meadow, or from nature to symbol and from symbol to nature. Maybe the
only significant symbols in contrast with nature are transparent symbols
(?!?). In this case we have a spirit or a phantom of the form that does
not hide or pollute the space. Do we have a right to hide anything? We
must act as if we were transparent guests on earth, which in fact we
are. In other words, we should pervade and embrace the space in which
we live. It is strange, that anything can be done and is travelling.
(There are main tracts and smaller paths. Everything is of the same value.)
*5 See my text in: Rocznik Rze¼ba Polska (The Polish Sculpture Annual],
vol. IX: 1998-1999, TEATR MIASTA, UTOPIA I WIZJA (Theatre of the City,
Utopia and Vision). (more at http://free.art.pl/adamkalinowski as "Sky
Reaching Hammock, The Room of Clouds".
*6 Compare my text: "Mitologia Fluxusu" (Mythology of Fluxsus),
Obieg 7-8/1991, p. 14-19, CSW, Warszawa (available also at http://free.art.pl/adamkalinowski).
*7 Kinesis of the external form is natural. It results from placement
in the natural environment which is variable, dynamic. Kinesis in this
sense is the change of states of energy, a kind of fluctuation of energy
or redistribution of quanta of energy, but not only the matter of aesthetic
side of process.
*8 In this case, people living naked in nature such as survivors of Aborigines,
Bushmen or Amazonian Indians have advantage over us, people living in
a state of advanced technological civilization. Through their bared skin
they remain in direct contact with the space and time of their ancestors.
They could offer us vast experience in the area of "direct" existence.
(We could learn a lot from them about "direct" existence")
*9 At the present this realisation once appears on the surface of water,
once disappears in water. It depends on the level of water in the lake
which in 2004 has similar height as in 1972.
*10 Eurosorrow (my term, expression from 80 ties)
*11 Another contribution to "the culture of rubbish", but not
only to it, could be the Gordon Matty Clark's realisations - injured
structures of buildings with cut-out holes which are the results of funny
- as it were - will to destroy, and in which there is something of child
curiosity, but also a compulsive passion for demolition, which accelerating
disintegration of these "used-up", outdoor applied realisations
becomes also the personification of Smithson's Entropy.