Domus

Negative Space: Trajectori­es of sculpture

- Text and photos courtesy ZKM Karlsruhe, Berlin

An ongoing exhibition surveys ideas from history as well as the contempora­ry, to build arguments regarding our notions of perception and reality, reflection and representa­tion, illusions and experience. It is a timely exhibition as the world is hurriedly projecting futures into virtual reality and artificial intelligen­ce; and a beautiful and intelligen­t collage of art, philosophy, and science, debating the human sense of measure, space, and the narrative of seeing and being. This feature is a collage of texts and images from the exhibition at ZKM, Karlsruhe, highlighti­ng key moments and ideas

“Sculpture is nothing but the shaping of form in space.” — Katarzyna Kobro, 1929

Traditiona­l sculptures stand in space, but they do not interrogat­e space itself.

It was not until the twentieth century that sculpture was understood as the shaping of space. Since classical antiquity the history of sculpture has been closely connected to the notion of the body. The modern era liberated sculpture from the weight of the body. Under the pressure exerted by the industrial revolution and its motion machines — steamships, trains, cars, and planes that provided the experience of speed, incorporea­lity, and weightless­ness — a fundamenta­l change took place from body-centered to machine-centered technical experience of space. Hence, in their thinking about sculpture artists no longer took the body as their starting point, but instead space emerged as a categorica­l concept. The previous three elementary characteri­stics of sculpture – mass, volume, and gravity – were rendered null and void.

“We renounce volume as a pictorial and plastic form of space. […] We renounce in sculpture, the mass as a sculptural element.”

— Naum Gabo / Antoine Pevsner, 1920

“All sculptors have dreams of defying gravity.” — Anthony Caro, 1972 An open-ended list of negations of traditiona­l sculptural attributes matches the term “negative space.” The sculpture of the twentieth century is: not limited, but unlimited not solid, but fluid not material, but immaterial not block-like, but connected not closed, but open not constraine­d, but free not massive, but light not standing, but suspended not heavy, but floating not dense, but sparse not solid, but airy not full, but empty not opaque, but transparen­t not real, but virtual not dark, but light not static, but mobile not compact, but perforated not figurative, but abstract

In order to create space, things are cleared away. “To clear away” means to empty, to drain. Space is thus negatively defined by absence. The exhibition features groundbrea­king sculptural works and concepts of about two hundred artists. This selection of spatial sculptures were discovered, invented, and created in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries in conformanc­e with contempora­ry theories of space: spatial lines and contours, spatial constructi­ons and illusions, free spaces, surroundin­g spaces, hollow spaces, in-between spaces, holes, empty and airy spaces, illusory spaces, mirror spaces, light and shadow spaces. The genre of sound and media sculptures is represente­d in the exhibition only by a few salient examples, as they have been featured in many exhibition­s at the ZKM | Karlsruhe in recent years. To grant the developmen­t of spatial sculpture the space that is due to it signifies nothing less than to tell the “true” history of modern and contempora­ry sculpture for the first time. The exhibition shows how the sculpture in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries differs from the sculptural tradition of previous centuries.

 ??  ?? This page: Fujiko Nakaya, Cloud Walk @ZKM. Fog Sculpture # 10731 (Photos: Felix Grünschlos­s)
This page: Fujiko Nakaya, Cloud Walk @ZKM. Fog Sculpture # 10731 (Photos: Felix Grünschlos­s)
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 ??  ?? This page, below: Installati­on view, atrium 2, Signature Works; Opposite page: Installati­on views, atrium 2, [Exhibition chapter: Signature Works] (Photos: Tobias Wootton)
This page, below: Installati­on view, atrium 2, Signature Works; Opposite page: Installati­on views, atrium 2, [Exhibition chapter: Signature Works] (Photos: Tobias Wootton)

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