Making Sense of Space: Sculpture, Mind and Human Imagination

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The potentials and conditions of the language of sculpture where the immaterial is not easily separated from the material can be considered in relation to research of embodiment in cognition which reveals how language is dependent on our physical interaction with a concrete sensuous world, for abstraction, complexity, paradox, metaphor. Gesture and physical interaction co-evolve with abstract language. 


 Cognitive scientist Rafael Nunez’s research demonstrates how people start conceiving of abstraction, co-create multiple spatial construals, and undertake collective sense-making in language based on the body in space.


 His work takes interest in how cognition is ‘embodied’, grounded on the peculiarities, experiences, and limitations of the human body. Abstraction, conceptual systems, and symbols manifest themselves largely through bodily unconscious gesture production. Perception is not something that happens to us, it is something we enact. 

 Across the world’s languages, the domain of time, like other abstract domains, is structured in terms of space. All known cultures have been found to spatialize time along one or another ego-centric axis. Overall the structure of deictic time concepts appears to be represented as a linear axis. Nunez’s field research examines striking exceptions to spatial construals of time. His most recent work examines the   culture of Papua New Guinea whose language in contrast to all known languages is not organized in terms of opposite directions along a “time-line” at all, but in terms of topographic terrain declivity.


 The history of modern sculpture is marked by a strong impulse to interrupt the flow of linear sequential time rather than delivering a single viewpoint or perception –a unitary pictorial effect, asking what if meaning instead of preceding experience occurs within experience? The viewer potentially circumnavigates, enacts and co-creates meaning. Time is medium in sculpture.


 In her recent work sculptor Jennifer Pastor seeks out structures where the built and enacted environment confound notions of bodies in space. 

 Her work takes interest in ideas of space; spatial polarities, armatures/deeper structures, bodily boundaries of objects and people, gesture, materiality, fictitious forms and anatomies, impossible sequences, embedment and detachment. 


 Her most recent sculpture “Endless Arena” is an agitated hybrid, a kind of extruded drawing, constructed from elements of blind gesture drawing at minor circuits of ‘no-holds-barred’ fighting events, collapsing forms and action happening simultaneously and in short time lapses in front, back, aerial and periphery views, an exploration of the complex situational space of the events, the spectacle of crowds, chaos, and the mediation of time-lapse and multiple view points on surrounding video screens.


  In another current project, a sculpture will be comprised of the essential marks of the history of action in the space (the last legal cockfighting pit in the US). Space is emptied of events and bodies; the abrupt end of an unusual history of symbolism and spectatorship in the rural American South. The ghosts of the history, action, event, animals, and spectators are embedded in the surfaces. The hollow space of surfaces remains animated by the residue of frozen action, ‘residual ghosts’ and will be the structure of the sculpture. It’s a kind of mingled time-line, an exteriorizing of the spectatorship and performance inside involving carefully designed negative spaces in order to achieve a sculptural form that is mainly the thin skin of emptied space still in motion from the gestural marks of its history.