Structures for Behaviour (1978)


To affirm some of the things that can be known about reality is not to f all victim to w hat Roland Barthes calls "the old couple, the o ld paradigm : subj ectivity/objec­ tivity," for our experience of the wor ld and ourselves is more complex than t hat opposition allows.' Nor is it to value the categories of the verif iable and external over the subjective, but to concede the mater ial conditions of reality.

To simply dichotomize sculpture into an object art and a post-obj ect art (that is, a "spatial art") and to call one objective and the other subjective is only to prolong the idealism of the opposition of the subjective versus the objective. Art ists, who st ill produce something that we can call an object within the f ield of exper ience, do not value an obj ect art as such, as much as assert the external in and by an object. Only thro ugh something constructed - as opposed to that give n in nature - can we believe or understand the assertion or ex­ istence of the external and objective. A "spatial art," wh ich does not permit these ju dgeme nts to arise, traps the spectator in subjectivity, as we shall see. The ramif ications of the denial of individual interaction w ith the obj ective and mater ial conditions of reality are !ar ­ ranging; for instance, they deny the possibility of changing the conditions of reality , that is political ac­ tion. Yet these artists fa ll back on the assumed radical charge of art to change consc iousness.

In the present investigation, obj ectivity rests with the ver ifiable conditions known as sculpture. The sculptor ac hieves obj ectivity in the sculpture through practice, that is,  work ,  andthespectatorthroughactual phys ical and perceptual engagement with the material sculpture and its spatial contextin real spaceand tim e. Subjectivity resolves itself in practice:
The c hief defect of all hitherto existing materialism - that of Feuerbach included - is that the thing, reality, sensuousness, is conceived only in the form of the ob­
j ect or of contemplation, but not as human sensuous activity, practice, not subj ectively.2

The recent exhibition, "StructuresforBehaviour"  at the A rt Gallery of Ontar io, provides the site fo r the in­ vestigation of recent sculpture w ith this under­ standing.

Whether one calls it the range of possibilities in sculpture or a contradiction, the exhibition revealed, in spite of itself, a basic disjun ction in contemporary sculpture. The exhibition attempted to designate all five wo rks by Robert Mo rris, David Rabinowitch, Richard Ser ra and George Trakas as "structur es f or behav iour ;" that is, as sculpture which promotes an in­ teractive relation between sculptural work and s pec­ tator in structure and perception.3 Although the catalogue states that the sculptures, while not forming a cohesive group, share certain tendencies, the wo rks themselves, in their intention or interpretation, seem antagonistic to one another. Indeed, what separates them seems of more importance c ritically than those features w hich unite them.

The work s reveal profound discord where there was an assumed continuity. Conflict arises due to the at­ tempt to unite recent trends in sculpture under the dual banner of phenomenology and a "spatial art," each of which is inadequate as either explanation or description for all the work s in the exhibition.

There is a definite epistemological break between Morris and Tr akas, on one hanrJ, and Serra and Rabinowitch , on the other. They break on the question of subjectivity that either affi rms itself as subjectivity or that confirm s what can be known to be exterior to subjectivity - that is, the material conditions of sculp­ ture and the degree to which this posits the world . Although some of the work s seem rhetorical in their statements, it is the interpretation of the works and
Morris' wr it ing on "spatial art" that reveal the con­ tradictory positions to be polemical. It is as if mater ial reality can sustain differences, t he wr itten word only contradiction. We do not maintain, however, that this contradiction bears w it hin itself any essential meaning for each of the respective artists.

Serra and Rabinowitch are concerned with under­ standingju dgementsinperceptionbyshowing, among otherthings,  thatknowledgeisnotgivena pr ioriordirectlyinperceptionandthatthecon­ str ucted sculpture, and, by extension, the wor ld, exist. nonetheless, external to our perceptions. T heir de­ mand for ju dgement is not positivistic: it allows the subjective but orily insofar as t he subjective deter­ mines our str uctures of j udgement in relation to the external world. The v irtue of t hese worksisthat,  in their own way, they combat the type of idealist dualism found in language and thought, and show how the material constrains and determines consciousness of reality at any moment.
The wo rks of Morris and Trakas, w hich exhibit the subj ective , romantic and baroque sensibilities of the new "spatial art," as promoted by Morris' wr it ing, at no time allow these types of ju dgement to be made. In the case of Morris and Trakas, however, we shall want to understand w hat use is made of subjectivity and how the artists di rect the subject/spectator to this state of mind and sustain him in it. We might ask further why we want to return to an aesthetic of sen­ sibility which is implied in a natural art approac hed and perceived subj ectively.

To quote from the catalogue preface "the exhibition is "thermatic"  onlyinsofarasitpresentssculptures w hich demand a common order of perceiving actively and meaningfully engaging the spectator." The in­ troduction states further that "the four artists do not f orm a necessarily cohesive group,  but in their respective ways of mak ing sculpture, they sharea number of tendencies which point to a set of values held in commo n."• These s hared tende nc ies presumably are those that fit thecharacteristics of "natural art" and "existence art," terms borrowed f rom Edward Fry and Ro bert Morris respectively. "Natural art," according t o Roald Nasgaard, the curator who organized the exhibition and wrot e the catalogue, finds the central ex perience of the work in the natural world , and "ex istence art" in "the strong sense of lived ex perience, of being in immediate time and released from the sense of the continuous narrative of history ."• While the catalogue essay is weighted towards an art discussed i n these terms, the order of experience revealed by all the works is qualitatively different. A "natural art" and an "existence art," defined clearly, would exc lude the works of Serra and Rabinowitch. What the catalogue says and what the exhibition itself proves are sometimes two different things, but it is the
w orks produced that render authority through their concrete forms and perceptual demands. Since the catalogue necessa rily could not address itself to the actual work s due to the simple fact that the pieces generally were executed during installation, the fol­ lowing analysis of the individual works fulfils a sup­ p ementary as well as critical role.

A side from the catalogue, some have claimed the ex­ hibition as a historical summation with the worksof Morris and Trakas reflecting the newsensibility of perceptual transformation and Serra and Rabinowitch the reactionary stance. Does the Art Gallery of Ontario exhibition really trace the end of the closure ofa period? If not, whatdesires,  reasonsormotivations are revealed in the wish to invoke historical necessity to justif y the change in sensibility? Why should sculp­ tor s abandon what has beengained   throughthe radical acts of the sixties and seventies in favour of the assumed permissions of dialectical historical neces­ sity?  Artists,  itseems,  areproclaimingdeflectionsin
interest as historical necessity in a desire to detach art from the pluralism of the present and to re-engage it as a radical act shaping and transform ing con­ sciousness.

RICHARD SERRA

The sculpture in this ex hibition, which reveals itself in expe rience and discloses an intentional or subjective exper iential state is necessar ily we ighted against ver­ bal description, but it makes demands, or constr ucts intentions, or structures experience, so that some type of interpretation is made by the spectator: at the very least, t he spectator is made aware of the experience. The follow ing analysis of Richard Serra's 3 = eleva­ tions creates a logic of the structure of the piece and its perception. It is not, however, the logic of the work but the descriptionof one directed encounter. The work itself subverts any type of approach t hrough logic: it avoids it necessarily in its disjun ctive readings.

Although Serra's wo rk is ex perienced in a spat ial­ temporal duration, it does not promote thisex­ perience as subjectivity . While it allows this ex­ perience, it presents itself as somet hing external to subjective experience, and verifiable inits externality, that is, as something knowable as external through its constructions w hich in themselves can be known to have meaning. T he wo rk is irreducible both to a pr iori conceptualization and to a subj ective expe riential es­ sence.
3 = elevations is sitedin an empty lot in the neighbourhood of the art gallery but away from that in­ stitution's value-conferring precincts. T he lot, sur­ rounded by a parking lot, houses and warehouse buildings, is not a park but a waste space. A path bisecting this space is well used by members of the community, which is primarily Chinese.

To the average onlooker , the work does not present itself as art. Three rectangular steel blocks varying in size (10"x 12"x24", 11"x 12"x24" , 12"x 12"x24") occupy positions in the lot. Each bloc k of steel is a discrete mass with definite length, breadth and depth. They are oriented to each other and in a space. Separate eleva­ tions are the same height; the width s of the faces vary in order to distinguish the specificity of each block. A ll horizontal planes are equal in elevation due to their topographic setting which has been determined by survey. This is not necessarily known to the observer but the information is g iven in the title. These are the physical properties of the work, but the work also oc­ cupies a space.
The three masses roughly triangulate the space. A spectator perceiving the three massesfromoutside their collective space o r upon entering the space, im­ mediately makes this observation because each mass establishes a point. From this initial observation , the spectator assumes a triangular structure, and this as­ s umption remains conceptual even as the three mas­ ses are o bse rved perceptually.  Thespectator, likewise, assumes and ju dges a centre point of the in­ tersection ofthe directional lines of the threemasses. In the subsequent attempt to physically locate this centre - because of the motivation on the part of the spectator to find direction ormeaningin the work - the a priori conception of triangulation must be aban­ doned by virtue of the observationsthatarisein situating oneself in the approximate centre. The spec­ tator , after a series pf adju stments, finds that there is no centre.6 Physical movement, necessarily accom­ paniedbyvisualandconcomitantspatialadaptation,
obviates the original conception. We cannot say either that the centre of intersection shifts because judge­ ments are made from two inferences, that is, points, only which are adapted to the third point. If there is a centre, it is in themoving body that postulates and destroysmeaning throughexperiencein and ofthe

 

 


work. But the work questions even this notion of a sub­ ject who can centre his experience. The experience of the work shows us that there is no stable system; the third element, when it is brought into consideration, is always capable of suggesting further observations or, in fact, of defeating the creation of a system.' At each moment perceptions must be adapted and integrated to what is physically known in interaction with the material conditions of the sculpture.

Although each mass is a part of a space of three mas­ ses, each is in its own right a separate entity. But rela­ tions can exist between any two of the three masses at a time, relations that shift from one binary set to another according to directed interest. Eachrelation, however, eventually involves observation of the third unit outside of each set. Having exhausted the con­
I    ception of absolute triangularity in the work, the spec­ I    tator moves to investigate the relations between the in­ dividual sets ofmasses. (Once again, this descript ion
should not be taken as programmat ic, directional or as an indication of a sequence in a logical chain of meaning,  norasashifttoadifferent"levelof
I    meaning." The workis open to experience from dif­
ferent directions; physically, one can approach it from all sides. The work is open to displacements of interest
and interpretations based on indications in the work .)

 

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How does the spectator perceive meaning in a work? Or rather, how is the individual motivated to find meaning? Initially, the individual conceived a priori notions which did not correspond to experience. More attention to the specificity of the components of the sculpture shows that the work itself concretely pre­ sents var ious elements for investigation . That is, the constituent elements of the masses are constructions in relation to one's movements and perceptions. Since each mass is a simple solid - a rectangle - each plane of the mass gives itself as a possible orientation to the spectator. For instance, if one starts from the mass in the south-west corner of the lot and moves perpendicular to its inner face, one intersects the face of the mass in the north-east corner : at one point, the inner face of this second mass presents itself frontally to the spectator. (It should be noted in passing that the terrain of the field causes the spectator to vary an ideated and expected geometr ically projected path. The spectator must look back repeatedly to the starting point to readjust his waver ing path). Each face in this frontal position presents a construction and a meaning is made obvious at that point through com­ parison with the other masses. To continue with the
example, at this point of intersection of the two faces in the position of the viewer's body and perception, the line of vision of the viewer naturally aligns or coincides with a longitudinal line projected from the mass under observation (the second mass in the north-east cor­ ner). At this point, the spectator turns to the third mass (north-west corner) to see its orientation and relation to his position. Aline from this third mass does not in-

tersect with other two linear project ions. The position of the spectator once again is not coincidental with the interior intersection of the three masses.

Visual tension between the actual projected line of this third mass and the expected line separates the actual line fromtheconceptualtriangularpattern.• Thelines, it seems, exist as separate entities, as constituent ele­ ments of each mass. They begin to separate as dis­ tinct orientations apart from anoverallimposed triangular    structure.

The directional line perpendicular to the face of the original mass under observation, that is aligned with the spectator's line of vision , in thus separate from that line of vision. The two lines - line of vision and pro­ jected line - although they coexist along the same path are not the same; the latter exists in its own right apart from the spectator's vision. At this point,the line is consistent with one's line of vision but the example of the linear tension between the real and the ex­ pected supplied by the third block shows that the line exists apart from one's conceptions or perceptions. The ability of the line to separate from one's vision as­ serts that something exists external to vision.A lthough we f irst know of it through our vision, it confirms the externality of the work .

Yet, although it is there in the wor ld for us, the work does not come into being through our vision. The reverse happens: real art (that is, an art of the real) brings consciousness into being. This is a dialectical,

not metaphysical, process where cognitiondevelops in interact ion with the material.

Different ju dgements and construct ions are made by the spectator in this work. Judgements made apart from the work 's construct ions, such as the notion of triangularity and the judged centre point, are rendered invalid and obviated by experience. Knowledge, then, is not given directly in exper ience - whether that ex­ perience is a present or a durat ion, but it cannot be known apart from exper ience; it cannot be a priori. Knowledge arises in the dialectical interact ion of mat­ ter, structure and consciousness. At the same time it is not our consc iousness that determ ines meaning - It interprets, or brings the work onto being for us, but the work st ill remains external to o ur perception. The work is constructed by the artist, but the exper ience is not totally determined. And the meaning that is con­ structed in the work is not the same as in nature, although we exper ience the work in the natural field of phenomenal ex istence. A n art object in the world can be known to have meaning, whereas nature cannot. Our exper ience of the worki s real, but do we call it a metaphor or a paradigm of cognition?
In another context Serra has stated: "What I am in­ terested in is revealing the structure and content and characte r of a space and a place by defining a physical struct ure through the elements that I use."9 These modest blocks of steel, unasumming in their placement in the lot, str ucture the space as much as they reveal its structure and content. The blocks and their placement create their own system of abstraction and a structure of interact ion with the perception of the viewer determined by these abstractions . T he work, t hen, if it was an abstract ion, could ex ist apart from real exper ience. Ultimate ly, though, it cannot ex­ ist apart from this particular space. The t itle, 3=eleva­ tions, tells something about this shifting over lay of parallels between the abstract and the real. The horizonta l planes of the three masses as well as their visual extensions are parallel. They form aparallel field of unseen, but not unimagined, planes over the space of the field and are a measure of the topography of the place and a contrast to one's exper ience of this topography. These planes visually over lay the uneven ground which is, all the same, roughly parallel as a ground plane horizontal to them. But in physical fact, the ground i s not parallel and the uneven terrain is the cause of many necessary adaptat ions of physical movement and conceptual ideatio n.  Indeed,  the planes are to a priori conceptions as the ground is to our exper ience. The ground is the physical stumbling block to a pr iori conceptions. It is the very real aspect of the place whose latency for content and structure has been activated. T his space has not been known in this way before, but it is only through the place that the space is known.

Although the str ucturing of the space in this way is parallel to the spectator's exper ience of it, its nature is actually different. It is one aspect of the d isjun ctive in­ tentions or readings of this work - not d ifferent levels of meaning. Since it is questionable to talk of artistic intention rather than intentional acts of the observer, perhaps we should talk of the disjunctive or polysemic readings elicited by the separate contexts. The work, in more ways than most, is open to d ifferent individual exper iences, and meaning is not directed in any given logical progression. But the work is also part of the var ious contexts in wh ich it finds itse lf , as a perceptual abstract sculpture in a space, that is also a place, that is also a comm unity. And it s ituates itself modestly in this space, open for interpretat ion to those w ho w ish to invest igate it, and absent from the value-conferr ing or obj ectifying or commod ity creat ing limitations of a gal­ lery space. In its modesty it is also polemical at this point.

Serra's sculpture, given a ll it attempts and encompas­ ses, does not abandon the possibility of an abstract sculpture whose meaning i s posited in the medium itself, that is, in its const ituent elements, conj unction with the perception of the who le and its parts through observation by the physical perceiving and motor body in space and time . The important nature of the
work lies within these disju nctive readings and in the awareness it permits of the destruct ion of a priori idealist conceptions that carry with them the notion of a centered self. The d istr ibution of the pieces across a field prevents the inter ior izat ion of meaning w ithin a physical body inhabiting virtual space. But it is the very exper ience of trying to f ind the centre of the as­ sumed triangular structure that points to this decentering in the self's assumpt ion of meaning and exper ience of its own self. Not only does the work dis­ courage the self from assum ing a pr iori meaning or center ing meaning in itself, but it shows the work's in­ dependence from the perceiving self and, indeed, its f inal determination of the se lf's percept ions. Decenter ing allows the work to avoid the str ict and exclusionary one-way undialectical logic of perception directly subsumed within concept ion, which obviates further perception and which exhausts the meaning of the work on a single level.

GEORGE TRAKAS

Trakas, too, struct ures the perception and movement of the spectator along the linear and within a spatial matrix. Trakas is one of the sculptors who intend to return sculpture to the public domain where it has always functioned in an extra-sc ulptural manner as a container and purveyor of values. The new work abandons culturally transmitted values and traditional symbols: rather, it involves the public in individual perception andphysicalinvo lvement.  Symbolic repr esentation is not abando ned comp letely, however. It exists in Trakas's work objectively - and paradoxically - as structural referant and subjectively on the spectator's part as association. Symbo lic as­ sociation ensures the subjective nature of the ex­ perience. On the part of the artist and artistic intention, this is an historicizing assoc iation.

Trakas was the only artist in the ex hibition to construct two work s. One i s housed in the gallery and the other creates a structure in the Gallery's sculpture garden. This division into two c lasses - interior and exter ior
creates different qualities of exper ience in the work. Transfer Station, the inter ior work, is more easily recognized as a structure than Extruded Routes, the wo rk outside. Even though the former is exper ienced durationally, by walking through or over it, it is also ex­ perienced as a stasis. The exper ience of the latter is more durational and discontinuous, but the discon­ tinuities of nature - light, s hadow, sound and climate
are absorbed into the work and become the ground for it. Trakas implies the difference in a catalogue stateme nt:

"I have c hosen to build work in what I consider to be two extremes: one self-consciously withinaconfined stat icroom that exc ludesallexter iorconditionsof light and climate, and another in a slightly large ex­ terior fenced- in yard adjacenttothebuildingw here the seasons and natural growt hs course at will" 10

What unites the two extremes is the perceivingand motor human body that acts under constraint or in dis­ jun ction with themind in exper iencing the work .

The initial premises of the works are based on their contexts. For Transfer Station this context is a large, interior gallery space "where materials and sculptural structures are looked at as separate from the building and are sensed as temporary insertions." The architectura l structure of the gallery determ ines the structure of the three units constitut ing the work . On a genera l eve/, the units reflect the basic nature of the building by being structural supports and protective cover. More spec ifically, they replay the structural divisions of the gallery. Thus the steel beams of the bridge-like unit duplicate the two large longitudinal beams that support the eight transverse beams, while the steel trusses of the two platform units restate the eight steel-reinforced concrete transverse beams. The units reflect the scale of the room, its openness as we ll as its architectonics, and the structures, halfway between f loor and ceiling, mediate the human to the gallery space: they relate to human scale as well . In-
timacy and scale within this particular space usually are determined bythe virtual space of trad itional painting and sculpture; or more recent work might be open to the litera l space of the gallery and the physical space of the spectator, but never in such a structurally ref lective and phys ically reflexive way as in Trakas's work.

Anot her given in the work, besides space/structure, is the body of the spectator. The work scales itself to the human body, but it a lso permits an interact ion with the body that draws attention to the body itself. S ince the structures themselves are somewhat absurd, the useless activity they promote focusses attent ion on the activity itse lf - namely the body moving and perceiv­ ing. The long str ucture functions as a bridge, but it crosses only the floor of the gallery, and one mounts the other two platforms only to descend the same nar­ row staircases. On the ground, while one may enter under one of the platforms freely, enter ing the other, beyond an initial step, requires one to lower the head in order not to hit the deeper trusses. Trakas states that:

"While one is thinking about the workone must also be cautious about w here one moves one's head to avoid touching the steel trusses. There is therefore a transfer-of focus, from look ing and thinking about the work to thinking about one's movement with respect to one's head. This alternat ion of mind aspart ofthe body and body as part of the mind is an enforced con­ dition that maintains the essential dynamic of being celebral and physical at the same time."

This same exper ience attends walking the wooden staircases by which one attains access to the plat­ forms (where, of course, one is in closer relation of the ceiling, one of the determinants of the work). The stair­ cases arenarrow,  wobbling,  and theriserscalculated to be uncomfortable for the body's ascentanddes­ cent. This combination forces the mind to lose in upon the body in the concentration on merely climbing the stairssafely,  whilethebodyassertsrecognitionof itse lf through the s light awkward ness caused by the height of the risers. Only when one attains the relative safety of the platforms - w here, nonetheless, one must attend o ne's position since it is a railless platform
- can themind and visual percept ions f ree themselves from the constraints of physical activity.

The struct ural referants of Extruded Routes, Trakas's exter ior piece, are more complex because they are not only material but organic, architectural and histor ical too. In approac hing this work, the spectator enters the sculpture garden from the street through an
iron qate. There. a steel frame in the "essential shape of a house" figuratively shelters an L-shaped "corner
of masonry resembling a foundation" which leads in two directions:  (1) down a f light of concrete steps to the recessed foundat ion of the gallery itself to a steel band/bridge perpendicular to the steps and sup­ ported by braces from the wall beside which the bridge runs to adeadend;  (2)  towardstworough spr uce beams supported by three posts. The latter, in turn, leads to a horizontal wooden trestle (paralleling the steel bridge at the lower level) elevated due to the lay of the land but rooting itself in the higher ground at its conclusion.
This piece can be seen or physically traversed;  and there is a visual and physicalspeedforeachofthe hor izontal elements. Visually the piececanbe perceived almost in the traditional terms of landscape painting: all the linear elementsaremeansofmov­ ing the spectator visually or physically t hrough this particular landscape. Thedeterminantsofthisentry into the space, however, are not engendered by the pictorial problems enco untered in depicting a reces­ sionallandscapeonatwo-dimensional   surface. Nature and the physical context of the space are the work's determinants, in the same manner that the gal­ lery spacestruct uredTransfer Station.

Spatial and architectural contexts determine the physical struct ure, and this in turn directs the physical motion of the spectato r and opens and closes his ex­ perience to ambient nature, which affects the sensitive perceptions rather than muscular engagement of the spectator. As such, the work concerns itself with the limits and infinity of perception in a natural as well as str uctured space . But it is the very treatment of the limits and infinity of perception - limits caused by the

 

 

physical structure of the work directing one's ex­ perience and the infinity of perceptions allowable in nature -that is problematical.

If we look at the physical structure of the piece, we can see how much has been determined by its immediate context and howmuch in the workdirects associations to a broader and more generalizedcontext.  Both materialandconstructionarerelatedtothearea. Thus, the steel bridge in an extrusion of the structural system of the gallery building, anditsbracesare related to the stucco seams in the wall. The broader associat ion of the bridge, which is at the bottom of a slope and thus "below" ground level,  istometal's source in the earth. The organic substance, the wood, locates itself, liketrees,  above   thegroundbut originates in the ground at one end: thus, "extruded routes"/roots.  Naturalelements,  suchastrees,  have an equal, though not as abvious, role in structuring the work. The wooden trestle aligns with a tree outside the fence, but this is not noticed until the trestle has been traversedandthewalkerturnsaround.  Thework points to thesenaturalelements:  thus,  "thebeam bridge axis, aligned between two large trees on either side of a stee l fence, points to a large stand of chest­ nut trees in the distance." Trakas writes that "I have chosen to alignthe axes of allparts ofthe workwith the architectural and urban grid in order to establish a physical counterpoint to the conceptual whole ." This physical counterpoint of structure and .site incurs a tautology, just as does the conceptual. The workis tautological while being externally referential. Yet the tautology only directs - it doesnotinform.  It is as if the work is a type of draw ing: it uses the site to com­ pose thestructure of the work, or in another sense, it draws to the surface the geological, organic, architec­ tural, and, seem ingly, historical structures and coor­ dinates them on a gr id. The work's limitations are ob­ vious,  though,  sinceonestructura l   pattern   islaid sim ply over another pattern rather than being used to analyse or cause tension or disorder between two systems. Itreinforceswhatis thereratherthanbeing cr itical.

While the structure of Extruded Routesdirects motion and visual interest conjointly and disjointly at different times andpositionsin the work,  allowingforthebody to usurp the mind during the process and thusto become aware of its physical self, the exter ior and in­ clusive environment of nature allows the perception of appearance. Both structure and nature incorporate duration: the physicalstructureduetothemotionof the body, and nature in the spectator's sensibility.  But the latter opens the work to experiences that are sub­ jective and assoc iative, not that these areimproper in themselves but dubious as valued ends forex­ perience. The spectator is drawn intohts subjective exper ience of factors tangent ial to the physical struc­ ture, such as light, climate and sound, or to inner as­ soc iat ions inthemannerofeighteenthcentury theories of aesthetic sensibities. In suchaway,  the work   remains opentohistoricizingassociationalism.11

Thus the subject once again becomes centered in himself. While the work itself has a structure and re­ mains independent as structure (although not in the same intentional fashion as in Serra's work), and while it directs the spectator exper ientially and physically, it leaves the spectator to exper ience himself exper ienc­ ing what is tangential to the structure - the ground of nature around him. And while the structure - the ground of nature around him. And while the structure may try to attach itself to broader organic, non­ organic, architectural and historical structures, the fact asserts itself that the total work splits into this tautological physical structure and the perceiving self which must tie into these referred structures by sub­ jective assoc iation rather than through active in­ terpretative analysis. Trakas's work is beautiful, like nature; one feels in it the seduct ive beauty of ex­ perience as one does the explanat ion of exper ience in phenomenology . But it is seduction not cr itical analysis.

DAVID RABINOWITCH

Rabinowitch's sculpture is the least "natural" of all the works in the exhibition. While a "natural art" (that of Trakas and Morris) promotes continual presence - work groundedin durational movement and ex­ perience - Rabinowitch's sculpture posits a non­ hierarchical chain of events, and the construct ion and deconstruction of vision through discont inuous judge ­ ments. And he achieves this through attent ion to the constituent elements of the sculpture which are abstract and literal and which both construct the work

 

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and determine and affirm the separate judgements that the observer can make.

As in previous Rabinowitch work, the constituent ele­ ments of Metrical (Romanesque) Constructions in 5 Masses and 3 Scales # 2 function variously, but now they are each referenced to one particular act. The separate construct ions - horizontal constructions of
metrics (cuts and boundaries) and masses, and ver­ tical construct ions (scalar holes) - while serv ing to construct a sculpture of mass, inform the observer about his structure of judgement and the externality of the work, that is, its existence apart from perception and subjectivity, but necessar ily affirmed by percep­ tion. As Rabinowitch writes:

"The role of the observer in art is not one of in­ vestigator of motives underlying a consc iously made world but rather as a discoverer of the structures of his own judgement within a wor ld he experiences as ex­ ternal and of a fully achieved desire." 12
Thus, horizontal constructions reveal in an exemplary manner that truth is not given directly in appearance, and vertical construct ions affirm that something can be grasped externally, that is as exterior to subjec­ t ivity. Both in the denial of truth in appearance and in the affirmation of external ity, Rabinowitch states that his work sets up instances where the model of phenomenology does not work.

The new work situates itself as the latest in the "Romanesque" ser ies, and is one that has benefitted fromthestudiescarriedoutbyRabinowitchinthe
small untitled sculptures that were exhibited at the Carmen Lamanna Gallery, Toronto, in 1977.13 These works primarily investigated the relations of parts and wholes in a sculpture of mass in wh ich it was not a matter of establishing harmonious, balanced, f ixed or hierarchical relations among the masses and subor­ dinate to the whole. Nor were these relations ordered by the artist. Rather, it was a matter of the spectator making jud gements about concrete relations and rela­ tions in appearance based on the constructions. In these small works, the individual masses, contained within a quadrangular who le, were discrete entit ies. But because of certain judgements they could join w ith other separate masses or the shape of the centre space, itself implying a "removed mass," to form a larger part within the who le. The removed mass, or space within the centre of the sculpture, gave indica­ tion that extended planes outside the sculpture ex­ isted as parts also. Thus the whole, that is, the total sculpture of mass, became a part of a new whole, and th is who le was only one possibility of new construc­ tions made through the judgement of the observer.

One implication of these small works was the dis­ placement of meaning fromthe centre or inter iorof the work, where a certain hierarchy of visual acts and fixed or ideal relations is implied, to judgements made by the observer within the literal specif icities of con­ text and perception in relation to a constructed mass. Secondly, the works, through the concatenation of judgements made about the relations of parts and wholes , suggested that it was questionable whether "the investigation of wholes and parts contributes towards the foundation of an a priori theory of ob­ jects." Accord ing to this phenomenological precept, "objects can be related to one another as wholes and parts, or can be in the relationshipofcoordinated parts of a whole . Such relationships are grounded a pr iori in the idea of an obj ect." 14Contrar ily, the work
under discussion showed that these relationships of parts and wholes arose in judgemental exper ience. Here the judgements cannot exist a priori apart from the construct ions and their experience and observa­ tion in literal space and time by the spectator. It should also be noted that the construct ions have the quality of both appearance and ver ifiable reality. While con­ structions determine both perception and appercep­ tion, adequate judgement cannot be made apart from the construct ions and must be "formed in a perfect identity w ith its content" (E1). And while "all construc­ tions are of a rational character," Rabinowitch declares that "rationality is nowhere identif ied with in­ tention" (A4, A5).

The new work benefitting f rom this perceptual and judg emental research is now able to obtain a much greater separat ion of the constituent masses. No longer, as in the small sculptures, are the masses held by a continuous boundary. The masses literally separate;  their   shapesasd iscretemassesand

primary forms, in one case a tr iangle and in another a rectangle, assist in this.  Spatialindentationsacting like the previous interior spatial triangles, serve to dis­ play this constructed discontinuity. Yet the discrete parts seem to cohere into a greater who le, to slide into place along their tangential horizontals as if the steel masses were charged magnets.
While the masses are known to be constructed through the horizontal metrics (the edges and cuts of the masses), they are directly apprehended as solids in a plane (D1). And they are apprehended as separate entities, groups, or a planar whole. That these horizontals plainly are constructed is evident in the ju xtaposition of the horizontals of different mas­ ses, espec ially in the case of near perpendiculars. This is clearly apparent in the open space created by the "displacement" of the rectangular mass which ooens the interior of the sculpture to the space around 1t. The c lear demarcation of th is space by the rnetrics of the surrounding masses shows that this space is actively created both by the constructions and the spectator's vis ion. Thus, at this moment, the space is active and so is the corresponding judgement of its construction.

Mass and horizontals are inextr icably wed: it is through the mass that the horizontals are known and v ice versa, but it is the metric horizontal constructions that relate the parts. Horizontals play a spec ific role, the significance of wh ich is greater than that implied by a quasi-forma l analysis of their sculptural role in defining mass and its vertica lity, relating the parts, etc. in this particular sculptural example. Rather, the significance obtains to their role in structuring judge ­ ment, but more specifically, in this case, to their role as a g e n t s i n t h e d ec o ns t r u c t i o n o f t h e phenomeno logical enterprise in exper iencing sculp­ ture.  Yet,  whilecertainveryspec ificconstructions h a v e e v o l ve d n e w f u nc ti o ns t h r o u g ho u t Rabinowitch's work, they have always maintained their previous roles. Horizontal and vertica l scalar con­ structions are the two most important instances of an anti-phenomenological act and most readily direct our attention to their functions.

Since thereisnohierarchicaldevelopmentinthe direct ing of visual acts, thespectatoris freetoenter into perceptual discourse withthesculptureatany point. This is not to maintain, however, that there is not a dialectical process that evolves once the v isual engagement nas been made. Any horizontal isthe means of start ing the process, of magnetizing an at­ tractive relationship between the work and the spec­ tator, of providing the dynamismthatstartsperception but is not itse lf the ground of perception. It is the dis­ cord caused by initial perceptions and mental con­ structs (interpretations) made in relation to other perceptions and constructs - madefromadistance and therefore perspective construct ions - that neces­ sitates moving to check, affirm or adapt perceptions in order forthem tobecomeappercept ions.  Rabinowitch wr itesthat   "perspectivalconsiderationsareonlyone c lass of variant structure; it is a partial means of in­ terpretation, its use directed against the belief that ap­ pearances canbe assoc iated with truths"  (B3).
Perspective is a partial means because it is only partly grounded in the literal facts of the mass. It is our perception (or our perspective) that make the horizon­ tals into perspectives and thus into something that changes in appearance. Changing views deconstruct one's previous perceptions. Distortions that arise due to the spectator's relation to the construct ions are not made for distortion's sake, but are inherent in percep­ tion in this inadequate relation to the mass in order for correct judgement to deve lop. The construct ion and deconstruct ion of vision in judgement, therefore, oc­ curs on thelevelofthehorizontalmetric,  on someth ing that is variable. But judgements are not dependent on perspective alone, otherw ise we would be totally determined by our perceptions and ap­ pearances rather than by the structure of judgement of perception in "perfect identity with its content." As Rabinow itch notes, judgement still rests on that which is external to perception, the horizontal construct ions that lose their perspectival role under closer observa­ tion: "The potential for the deconstruct ion of any unified perspective renders it dependent on condi­ tions externa l to it; i .e. jud gements may never rest on it alone" (B4).

The autonomous construct ions of verticals serve a similar anti-phenomenological function, but unlike the
horizontals they remain the same from any viewpoint. Moreover, wh ile the horizontals often are judged in relation to one another (thereby in perspect ive), the vertical scalesserveasindependentfoc i.  Although they can be formed into geometr ic patterns among themse lves and i n relation to the horizontals, this act is essent ially interpretation. And if theperception   re­ quired to comprehend the horizontalconstructions tempora lly coincides with movement, that needed to apprehend the vert ical scales can exist outside of movement. Thus, the vertical, unlike the horizontal, construct ions are "endur ingobjectslimitedtoone class."

Just as it was the var iable character of the horizontals that indicted a phenomenolog ical approach, it is the constancy of the "endur ing objects" - the scalar con­ structions - that asserts that something external ex­ ists. For it is the very constancy of the scalar proper­ t ies that permits them to be grasped as literally exter­ nal and exterior to our subjective phenomenological perceptions and judgements. The content of one's perception, in the case of the scalarconstructions, must be formed in perfect identity with the external condit ions of that perception. And it is the unchanging vertical scales that allow this. Rabinowitch's com­ ments on this matter deserve to be quoted in full:

"A nyconstructionofascaletypeisbyits def inition a complex situat ion in which a group of constructed possibilities under the form of perception and in the context of a referencing act,  i.e. a special appercep­ tion of the process of observation, are grasped exter­ nally, as endur ing obj ects limitedtooneclass.  The root of such construct ion, the referenc ing act, must be formed in a perfect identity with its content. Thisas­ sumes that: a) acts of observat ion are uniquely deter­ mined by their structure, b) external classes of objects endure in a larger context wh ich is itself a concrete ob­ ject, c) the construct ion of observableobjectsisat once the condition and resultofthereferencingact. The construct ion of scale i s fe lt, then, to be the most personal condition for observable art and at the same timea basis of ver ifiable ju dgements." ( E1)

Basically, the vert ical scales are someth ing to look at, and they are to focus light, someth ing that is external.

Why engage in an anti-phenomenological enterpr ise, espec ially when phenomenologica l processes must be used to deconstruct themse lves? Because of the limitations and quest ionabilityof phenomenology some of the problems of wh ich Michel Foucault has outlined:

"If there is one approach that I do reject, however, it is that (one might call it, broadly speak ing, the phenomenolog ical approach) which gives absolute prior ity to the observing subject, wh ich attr ibutes a constituent role to an act, wh ich places its own point of view at the origin of all historicity - which, in short, leads to a transcendenta l consc iousness" 15

It is not enough to penetrate "to the very sources of our experiences of the wor ld through the relationships w hic h we estab lish w ith it by our perceptual behaviour ," but to af f irm through th is same procedure, and in spite of it, what exists external to man - the objective conditions of reality. And it is ob­ viously not sufficient to turn to the phenomenological "things in themselves" since that process of turning only conceals the subjective idealism that process of turning only conceals the subjective idealism that re­ tains man as the centre and or igin of truth in ex­ perience: "If the current sculpture is not in the image of man, at least in a curious, but very real way, it places man at the very centre of itself."16 To place man at the centre is only once again to centre man in himself , to make a priviledged locus of meaning.
the experience of truth in appearance, and the vert ical scales affirmed externality. Similarly active in this procedure are the operat ions of mass wh ich, from every view that the spectator might take, are presented as totally recognizab le. Thus, t hough ap­ prehens ion is variable, mass operat io ns are recognized as not being var iant:

"A ll v iews present total recognition of every mass operat ion; i.e. at any instance of the reorientat ion of the plane the operat ions of mass and their relations are preserved. The endur ing relations of the opera­ t ions of mass, therefore, are not grasped as var iant, all var iation being placed on the side of unique ap­ prehension. Thus is retained simultaneously the exter­ nality of relation and internalized truths" ( B 1)

Objective verification of externality and the objectif ica­ t ion of the individual's structure of judgement do not imply r igid determ ination of perception. On the con­ trary, the individual has to make these ju dgements himself, and there are specif ic occasions that aff irm not only w hat the perceiver can know, but also what is unique to him. T his is the case of the "cardinal order­ ing of appearance." It is peculiar to this work, and to others in the ser ies, that certain collections of masses w ithin the who le cohere into separate groups depen­ dent on the ju dgements made by the observer at that specific moment. This likewise includes the creat ion of external areas/p lanes by perspective projection (C1). Collections may be independent but they exist as part of the total mass which is prior to the collections (C2), and these collections can exist in opposition to others formed by the spectator since they are at all times formed in individual judgement - they do not exist a pr iori as pre-established relations. A cardinal ap­ pearance wh ich comes into being through a specific jud gement made by the observer "is one means of af­ firming objectivity of sight unique to one observer . In th is construction it is crucial that both the objects of vi­ sion (form) and its uniqueness act ( content ) be preserved" ( C3 ) . Oppos it io ns of cardinal ap­ pearances, being autonomo us const ructions, "are built insights which f urther assert the ligitimacy of one observer's point of view" ( C4 ).

On a simple level Rabinowitch's sculpture shows that there is something in sculpture, in its constructions, that has meaning and is external. What is the relation, then, between these construct ions and nature, that is, between the work and what is outside it? To make the work into a model or metaphor for cognition or naturel exper ience is to turn it into representat ion and to deny it the literal acts that bring it into meaning.
ROBERT MORRIS

Morris's work constructed in one of the spac ious Sam and Ayala Zacks galleries at the AGO, is the latest and most comp lex of his mirror installations. Panels of mirrors were disposed in the space so that they shaped the four corners of the gallery (passageways behind the mirrors were made necessary by f ire regulations)  andtwofreestandingmirrors,  ref lective
on both sides, occupied the central area of the gallery. Stacked wooden beams, issuing from the corners, diagonally crossed thespaceenvelopingthetwo centra l panels of mirrors. Themirrors,  relfectingupon and off each other, creating effects of virtual space en­ fo lded in virtual spaceuntilexhaustion,  andthe beams,   physically   structuring   the   space   and   pro­ j ecting v irtual structures in the mirrors beyond the limitations of the room, do not so muchdestroythe space of the room as refuse to acknow ledge it. The mirrors deny the space of theroomby drawing focus into them; they themse lves become a self-contained system.

The beams act as a n open and closed structure , deny­ ing or giving access to different pockets ofspace. They direct both physical and visual movement along the diagonal of the space, and are means to slip the actual into the virtual space. In the mirrors form becomes image, but form is also parallelled by image to create anot her struct ural whole whose gestalt shifts w ith movement of the spectator. T he mirror image complements the physical structure, but the central mirrors also act as physical planes that block space, that hide the ex istant by a v irtual space which ref lects an image symmetr ical to what is in front but opposite to that behind the mirrors.

While one could descr ibe and analyse the structural effects of the installation, one cannot do this without first exper iencing the space and structure. At this point attention is drawn to the perceiving body in the way that it insinuates itself into the world and develops its exper ience. The mirrors are excellent devices for show ing this insinuation of the body in space and foc­ cuss ing recognition of its exper ience in that space. But why should the spectator, once in this space, want to move to investigate t he space and- levels of virtual space? Beyond curiousity, what is the motivating force? One soon finds that the complexity of the mir­ rors, on the one hand, leads to a physical self­ forgetfullness as t he viewer becomes visually ab­ sorbed - in both senses - by the virtual images. On the other hand, the multiplication of the image of the self allows the var ious movements of the body to be observed in walking. The body tak es cognizance of itself in movement, but under its own visual, not physical, observation . In approach ing a corner mirror, for example, the body can be seen both approaching and retreating at the same time. Or in other cases, one can observe the image of the self observing itself. In this instance, where two images of the body are under observation, one image will be seen to observe the other image wh ile the latter is seen to observe the real physical observer.
These devices could be dism issed as optical tricks, but the mirror is also a simple structural device and it sets up binary oppositions of similitudes, its mirror plane operat ing like the slash between two terms. It, therefore, estab lishes an analytical situation within the fie ld of the body's exper ience. Now instead of mirror­ ing the situation of the body in space,  it becomes a structura l model or metaphor for consciousness.

Rabinowitch does not deny the perceiving self in favour of literal external reality. But he does affirm the objectivity inherent both in externality and in the struc­ ture of the individual's judgements . Here, in the latter, is where Rabinowitch rejects total subjectivity of knowledge. Horizontal constructionsgave thelie to

 

 

 


David Rabinowitch, Metricai(Romanesque) Constructions in 5Masses and 3 Scales #2, 1977-78, Carmen Lamanna Gallery and t he artist installation, Art Gallery of Ontario, Structures forBehaviour exhibition, 1978.
The mirror plane is the mediator betwen the actual space and its replication, virtual space. And as this mediator is the slash between terms, in the structural configuration it allows of the reflection of the body we can say that the actualspace is to the virtual space, as the perceiving subject is to the subject known to itself (i.e. as a mirror image), and further as the subject as physical object is to the subject known as object (mir­ ror image). The latter tw.o pairings already imply the basic binary opposition of our culture: mind/body. Beyond this, we can add Morris' binary designations that incorporate all the above, that the actuel space is to the virtual space as the "present-time experiencing self" is to the "reconst ituted 'image' of the self ," or as the "I" is to the "me" as Morris symbolically constitutes it."

Of the mirror installations previous to this, Morris has wr itten:
"Mirror spaces are present but unenterable, coexis­ tant only visually with real space. the very term "reflec­ tion" being descriptive of both this kind of illusionistic space and mental operations. Mirror space might stand as a material metaphor for mental space which in turn is the "me's" metaphor for the space of the wor ld. With mirror work s the "I" and the "me" come face to face."1•
With the "I" and the "me" face to face, Morris perhaps is attemptinQ "to bring the domain of the "I" untrans­ formed into the purview of the 'me"' by the"l's" physical usurpation of the "me's" space ofcon­ sciousness in the samestructurallyreferential way that the physical body is absorbed into the mirror space, itself the analogy of mentalspace.19 While Mor­ ris maintains in his essay that experience of the work discussed there is outside the exper ience of the "me," in his own mirror installations he tr ies to reconstitute the "I" and the "me" by collapsing the "me" into the "I" and abandoning the object in order to resolve the sub­ ject/ob ject dilemma in a state of presence.

Outside these binary structura l creations, what we think the work achieves in an understanding of the limits to experience. This work comes very close to setting the limits to art in the phenomenologicalf ield. If the work acts in the f ield of nature it is nature, that is, part of experience, but is separates itself from nature through the intentional act of the artist. T he simplest means to this is the interposition of the mirror which traditionally, as basic representation or symbolization, has been an approach to nature (the artist holds the mirror to nature) but also has functioned to duplicate the truth/appeara nce problem, and within man, the mind/body duality. What Morris accomplishes with the use of mirrors is the submersion of subjectivity within the natural field of existence.

Theinsertionofthemirrorisaninterruptionofthe f ield by something that shares characteristics with that f ield, that slides itself into place through virtual reproduction. The mirror interrupts the space while being part of the space. It allows the spectator to be engaged in virtualspace while being present bodily in real SP'!Ce which one realizes through the observation of the self in reflected form in the virtual space. This is analogous at the same time to the state of con­ sciousness that interrogates a virtual space, or its own mental space of exper ience, but it is that state of con­ sciousness at tile same time. not a representation of it as Morris would maintain. It exists also in the natural wor ld of experience.


To return to basics, to go back to something that is nearly invisible, seems to inform the work in what is tantamount to a transformat ion of consciousness, of sensibility. This transformation necessitates the aban­ donment of the object and a type of consciousness determined by the object in favour of the transformed consciousness of spatial presence. To deny the object is to deny the intentional activity of the human mind, and to reorganize experience on the basis of a new object -that of the body. Accord ing to the essence of this art, one cannot look for meaning when the work only allows experience.

 

26
Yet to validate the exper ience of presence alone is to make it into an ideal since it is to assume that something is pure without the inflections or deter­ minations of its own historicity.20 A nyactivitywhich does not acknowledge its own historicity outsideits point of view is questionable. This is true in terms of the individual subject perceiving this work, but also in terms of the conditions of display. With Morris, the reduction takes place in the ideal space of the art gal­ lery, even though he wishes to contend with that space (and yet the work also createsits own self-contained system); his elaborate and expensive construct ions necessitate it. Perhaps the most pervasive structures for behaviour and those that are subtle. if uncon­ sciousness, are the aesthetic and perceptual determ i­ nants of the gallery system.

The very possibility of our understandin_g Morris' work implies the adjustment for interpretation that the human being is able to make in order to understand a type of behaviour, and, thus, to make judgements about it. Morris wants to avoid the discourse of culture, of memory, of the "me" conditioned by language and history in favour of a durational, but not narrational, sense of the experiential body. But the body is inscribed in more complex ways than the uto­ pian desire for the body's absolute presence admits. It is as if ·Rosalind Krauss' reading of the exteriority of meaning in Rodin and modern sculpture (including the notion of the relative opacity and deferment of meaning in Duchamp) must be interpreted as the perceiving body's awareness of itself. Not only can one not talk about the interiority of meaning and truth centered in the body (concomitant with the notion of interiority and intentionality, and a priori ideas), but one must admit: how meaning comes to the perceiving body; the disj unction between the body and exterior signifiers, and, therefore, the plurality of readings in contexts; and the necessity of "active interpretations, which substitutes an incesssant deciphering for the disclosure of truth as a presentation of the thing itself" whether in a idea, object. or human body.2 1

Morris' previous work has been instrumental in serv­ ing "as a certain kind of cognate for this naked dependence of intention and meaning upon the body as it surfaces into the wor ld in every external particular of its movements and gestures."22 In the present in­ stallation, his work has gone full circle f rom the object as performer in time (in the 1961 Living Theater per­ formance) to the spectator as performer in time and through space. Since the body becomes its own per­ former and necessary spectator, it observesits gestures as a body in the wor ld. Yet Morris' adamant concentration on presentness and subjectivity in his work and wr iting with the concomitant loss of the in­ tentional object perhaps only displaces interior mean­ ing from the object - and hence the spectator who in­ teriorizes the meaning felt to be inherent in the object
- to the spectator so that, even now without an object, the work maintains a disguised centeredness . However, it is a vexed problem since Morris seems to attempt the same strategies as the other artists under discussion here. Similar to some of these artists' work, Morris's installation delays establishing a cognitive gestalt space through the conf licting spaces created by the mirrors, and he seems to confuse the notion of a self centered as a subject by the myriad reflections of the perceiving body that understands itself only in the gestures that arise in its experience.

A full and proper analysis of Morris's work would en­ tail a three-fold discussion that is not possible here, in­ cluding the considerations: (1) whether Morris' mirror installations in their abandonment of object con­ sciousness are still "cognitive, then, in their f ullest ef­ fect" and whether the work "informs us of the nature of consciousness itself" in the sense that Annette Michelson analysed his work with exemplary rigour in the early seventies;23 (2 ) Rosalind Krauss' brilliant ap­ plication of the concept of "decentering" to sculp­ ture;24 and concomitant with this, (3) an undertaking of a critique of presence or presentness, which implies centeredness, in order to understand how duration of presence in literal time may allowMorristoescape this charge of centeredness.25
Basically,  Morris'srecent essay,  'ThePresent Tense of Space," is the means to approach this problem. and demands    comment,    especially    because    of    his authorityan·d since the writing will be more influential than his installations due to its greater accessibility. Of course,  the writinghas nothing todowith thework , particularlybecauseitis predicatedon the rhetorical opposition of binaries that are absent necessarily from the work, if the work is known experiencially not sym­ bolically.  Whateverthe significanceofMorris'  writin as observations in one particular site of experience, it is undercut by the valorization of only this exper ience totheexclusionofothers. Thenecessaryrhetorical exclusion of othermodes of experience is also tied to the exclusion ofotherartistic activities and forms. One is   made   the   symbo l   of   the   other.  This   binary categorizationis a type ofWolff linian opposition, only here value is given to one of the polarities. In order to opposeso-calledMinimalobjectartanditsobject oriented derivations, with its supposed attendantform ofconsciousness,  Morris has had toresort to binary dualismthatbecomesanethical,  metaphysical dis­ course. a discourse that assigns positive and negative attr ibutes. Itis curious that the repressive features of thinking in binary terms has received the same criti­ que as the metaphysical concept of presence.26 Think­ ing in binary terms is repressive because it determines andlimitstheexper ienceofeachspecif icitybyits valorized opposite. Yet the dualism set up, still con­ tains t hevalorizedterm'soppositebyreactionand repression. This means of arguing outside the art work is basically a rhetorical device and polemical means of supportforoneparticulardirectionin contemporary art. Itis this discourse created frombinaries and the accompanyingvaluationofsubjectivitythatsurfaces in Morris' essay that should be discussed.

Insofar as Morris' work and the work he discusses direct awareness toward s new exper ience, the enterprise is valuable. But to value this over other ex­ periences, to situate reality for man in one type of con­ sciousness which is present in a particular situation or experience. to the exclusion of others, is suspect. The "shift in valuation of experience" that Morris narrates, from "images, the past tense of reality... to duration, the present tense of immediate spatial experience," directs his model of "presentness" in which there "is the intimate inseparability of the experienceof physical space and... an ongoing immediate present. Real space is not experienced except in real time."27 This is true, but do we build a model of "real" con­ sciousness from this? Morris reads this development as a reaction against the "independent specific ob­ ject." Therefore he must posit parallel binary struc­ tures linking each art, t hat of an object oriented art and the newer spatial art, to binary modes of percep­ tion and consciousness .Using George Herbert Mead's division of the self into the "I" and the "me," Morris equates the "I" with the "present-time experiencing self" and the "me" with "that reconstituted "image" of the self formed of whatever parts -language, images, judgements, etc. - which can never coexist with im­ mediate experience but accompanies it in bits and pieces." And t hese categor ies are further identif ied with two types of perception and two types of art:
"Shift the focus from the exterior environment to that of the self in a spatial situation, and a parallel, qualitative break in experience between the real-time "I" and the reconstituted "me" prevails. As there are two types of selves known to the self, the "I" and the "me," there are two fundamental types of perception: that of temporal space and that of static immediately present obj ects. The "I", which is essentially imageless, corresponds with the perception of space unfolding in the continuous present. The "me,"  a retrospective constituent, parallels the mode of object perception''2•
In equating object art and object perception and con­ sciousness, Morris denies any dynamic relation to the object by consciousness which, in effect, is the spec­ tator who has been refused a contextual relationship by Morris. He admits that "objects are obviously ex­ perienced in memory aswell as in the present," but "their apprehension, however, is a relatively instan­ taneous..all-at-onceexperience.  Theobjectismore-
over the image par excellence of memory: static, edited to generalities, independent of the surroun­ dings."29 This denies any real space and time ex­ perience of the object by the spectator and limits his awareness of the object to a pure definition of the ob­ ject outside any context. We have only to compare this with Morris' own earlier writings on this object art:

"The better new work takes relationships out of the work and makes them a funct ion of space, light, and the viewer's field of vision ... It is in some way more reflexive because one's awareness of oneself existing in the same space as the work is stronger than in previous work." 30

Rosalind Krauss wrote of Rodin and Brancusi that:

"The art of both men represented a relocation of the point of origin of the body's meaning - from its inner core to its surface - a radical act of decenter ing that would include the space to which the body appeared and the time of its appearing."

This description would seemto apply toMorris' con­
·cerns and Krauss went on to say: "What I have been arguing is that the sculpture of our own time continues this project of decentering through a vocabulary of for that is radically abstract." She claimed this same role for the object art of Minimalism whose ambition she stated, like Rodin and Brancusi, was "to relocate the origins of sculpture's meaning to the outside, no longer modelling its structure on the privacy of psy­ chological space but on the public,  conventional nature of what might be called cultural space."31

An object art such as Judd's, for example, could be­ seen to combat the "uniqueness, privacy, and inac­ cessibility of experience" by reducing meaning to the surface oi the object.32 Morris' early object art, likewise, withdrew meaning from the interior of the work itself to that which affected it, situated it. And while it would appear that he still is concerned with the space and time of the body's appearing, it is his per­ sistance in valor izing one type of exper ience that he calls "presentness" and his return to the privacy and subjectivity of experience that seems once again to house and center meaning in the individual subject.

Morris conceives the "sensibility" of this new art as baroque, although we could say that it is also roman­ tic. No matter how cognitive the body is in exper ience, subjectively apprehended experience still promotes sensibility. And sensibility reinforces subjective self­ direction ( being as self-relationship) rather than sub­ jective interaction with structure, material and other requisites subservient to the external.

The f ield of subjectivity aligns with the f ield of spatial presentness. Mo rris often assumes that con­ sciousness is the same as the structure under obser­ vation, that they are tautologous, or that the latter is capab le of tr a nsf o rming perceptio n and con­ sciousness. Thus he wrote in 1969 that "some new art now seems to take the conditions of the visual f ield itself (f igures exc luded) and uses these as a structural basis for the art."33 Morris does not conceive a perceiving body that structures comprehension out­ side of a pure perceptual f ield. Valery commented negatively on a similar phenomenon:

"Something like this might be seen from a certain level of observation, if light and the retina were continuous
- but then we should no longer see the objects themselves. Hence the function of the "mind" here is to combine two incompatible orders of size or quality, two levels of v ision that are mutually exclusive."34

Perhaps wecan best read intention on the level of language, on what the artist has written. But we know that the rhetor ical structure of language is symbolic, not literal. And we know that intention is an a priori limitation of the literal experience of the work and is only of marginal use in the interpretation of the work. But what if Morris' mirror piece is a material interpre­ tant of his writing? The work may escape the charge of presence which implies centeredness, although what
it attempts is small return for its elaborate construc­ tion. Morris' wr iting, however, cannot escape the centripetal pull of its influence. Paradoxically, it is the writing which produces the optical illusion of the sub- ject.     •

 

 

 

 

NOTES

Roland Barthes, Roland Barthes (New York: Hilland Wang, 1977), p. 168.
Karl Marx, Theses on Feurerbach, no. I.
The word "spectator," derived from the Latin spectare, to look, and meaning "one who looks on" obviously is inade­ quate to describe the person who experiences this work, but it will be used by convention.
Roald Nasgaard, Structures for Behaviour (Toronto: Art Gallery of Ontario, 1978), pp. 7,9.
5.  Ibid., pp. 9- 10.
If we abstract the three masses to points, then a triangle can be delineated. But the sightlines of the rectangular masses oriented to the interior space do not intersect.
Cf. Serra's own statements where he imputes a moving centre: "Similar elevations -elevations equal in height - in an open f ield, on a flat f loor. shift both horizontally and vertically in relation to one's locomotion. Because of this, the center, or the question of centering, is dislocated from the physical center of the work and found in a moving center;" and on Shilt, "The space between the two sets of walls.. implies a center to the work. The center would coincide with both the measured center of the field and a gravitational or topological center of the land mass. However, this is not the center of the work. The work does not concern itself with centering in that way. The expanse of the work allows one to perceive and locate a multiplicity of centers." Richard Serra, "Shift," ed. by Rosalind Krauss. Arts Magazine, 47:6 (April 1973), pp. 55, 54.
The lines exist in so far as lines can be projected either longitudinally through their masses perpendicular to the inner f aces or from the side planes of the masses. They do not exist in physical fact, but we can hold them in the space of our vision, so to speak.
"Richard Serra: Sight Point '71-75/Delineator '74-76," radio interview by Lisa Bear, Ar t in A merica, 64:3 (May­ June 1976), p. 82.
Statement by George Trakas in Nasgaard, Structures for Behaviour, p. 115. A ll quotations hereafter on Extruded Routes and Transfer Station respectively are f rom pp. 116 and 124.
One example where this is apparent is in the steel frame structure. A tree is absorbed into the open f rame struc­ ture of steel "so that a relation is made between the open web network of steel and the growth of twigs. The aligne­ ment of both results in the foliage of the tree making a shadow in the interior of the frame which creates the sheltered sense of being inside." The steel structure thus associated with the tree as shelter makes reference to eighteenth century architectural theories on the origin of buildings. The "house" frame in Trakas's work thus func­ tions as a symbol and relates the work associationally to certain ideas of shelter or being housed. If the sculpture is not architecture but something that deals with the body, why are there references to structural origin? Does not the sculpture then necessarily become a symbolic representation in spite of what else it attemps to present?
David Rabinowitch is Nasgaard, Structures tor Behaviour, AB. p. 73. Henceforth references to Rabinowitch's state­ ments will be designated in the text by their proposition numbers.
See Philip Monk, "David Rabinowitch: Recent Sculpture,"
Parachute. no. 8 (Autumn 1977), pp. 22-24.
.  Marvin Farber, The Foundations ofPhenomenology, 3rd ed., rev. (Albany: State University ofNew YorkPress. 1966), pp. 283, 284.
Michel Foucault, The Order of Things (1971; rpt. New York: Vintage Books, 1973), p. XIV.
Nasgaard, Structures tor Behaviour, p. 47.
Robert Morris, "The Present Tense of Space," A rt in America , 66:1 (January-February 1978), p. 70.
Ibid., note 9, p. 80.
19. Ibid., p. 80.
See Jacques Derrida's analysis of the relation of presence, phenomenology's "principle of principles," to ideality: "Now... this determination of being as ideality is paradoxically onewith the determination of being as presence." Jacques Derrida, Speech and Phenomena, trans. David B. A llison, (Evanston: Northwestern Univer­ sity Press, 1973), p. 53.
Derrida's quotation on Nietzsche is from the translator's introduction to Jacques Derrida, 01Grammatology, trans.
G. Spivak, (Baltimore: John Hopkins Press, 1976), p. xxiii.
Rosalind Krauss, "Sense and Sensibility," Artlorum, 13:3 (November 1973), p. 49.
Annette Michelson, "Three Notes on an Exhibition as a Work," Artlorum , 8:10 (June 1970), p. 63; and, "Art and the Structuralist Perspective," On the Future of Art (New York: Viking, 1970), p. 57. See also, "Robert Morris - An Aesthetic of Transgression," Robert Morris (Washington: Corcoran Gallery of Art, 1969).
Rosalind Krauss, "Sense and Sensibility," pp. 43-53 ; and,
Passages in Modern Sculpture (New York: Viking, 1977).
Using the exam ple of Derrida's critique of presence in Speech and Phenomena and 01 Grammatology, one could substitute "spatial art" for "speech" in his analysis of the relationship of speech, ideality , being and presence.
Derrida, 01Grammatology.
Morris, "The Present Tense of Space," p. 70. 28.  Ibid., pp. 70-71.
29. Ibid., p. 71.
Robert Morris, "Notes on Sculpture, II," Artlorum, 5:2 (Oc­ tober 1966), reprinted in Gregory Battcock, ed., Minimal Art: a Critical Anthology (New York: Dutton, 1968), p. 232. Also see whatKrauss has written on critical interpretation of the gestalt in Morris'  early work: "The gestalt seems to be interpreted as an immutable, ideal unit that persists beyond the particularities of exper ience,  becoming through its very persistence the ground for all experience. Yet this is to ignore the most rudimentarynotionsof gestalt theory, in which the properties of the 'good gestalt' are demonst rated to be entirelycontext-dependent." "Sense and Sensibility," p.50.
for all experience. Yet this is to ignore the most rudimentary notions of gestalt theory, in which the properties of the "good gestalt' are demonstrated to be entirely context-dependent." "Sense and Sensibility," p. 50.
Krauss, Passages, pp. 279,270. 32. Ibid., p. 259.
Robert Morris, "Notes on Sculpture, Part 4: Beyond Ob­ jects," Artlorum, 7:8 (April 1969), p. 51.
. Paul Valery, "Introduction to the Method of Leonardo da Vinci," collected in Paul Valery, An Anthology (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1977), p. 55.

 


“Structures for Behaviour, “ Parachute, no. 12 (Autumn 1978), pp. 20-27.

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