artist / participant
In May 1926, Constantin Brancusi erected the first outdoor Colonne sans fin in Edward Steichen’s garden in Voulangis, on the outskirts of Paris. From a poplar tree in the garden, Brancusi sawed then carved nine rhombic shapes of equal size. The two end pieces were half the size of the others, thereby leaving the Colonne sans fin open at each end. The rough axe marks scarring the surface of the wood remained visible, just like the stone pedestal that anchored the column into the ground. The Colonne sans fin stood in a small clearing surrounded by flowers, bushes and trees. The transformation from poplar to infinite column lasted three days and was documented in Edward Steichen’s photographs. Brancusi himself photographed the finished Colonne sans fin from different angles. A short while later, when the column was removed and split into two parts, Man Ray photographed the process and created a short documentary film. Why is this documentation so important to Brancusi? He knows that photographs will be the only lasting documentation of this installation. But more importantly, Brancusi shows a column that doesn't support a built structure. Situated in an infinite space, the column is liberated from function, thereby affirming itself as work of art, and in its formal strength, the column even loses its infinite surroundings and essentially becomes nomadic.
Photography is the medium in which temporary configurations live on. It reflects and records nomadically drifting shapes -- the ephemeral, that lives only for a few days. It is the optical diary of constellations, of Brancusi’s combinatorial method, which is hardly inferior in importance to his sculptural method directed towards essential form. The combinatorial method is also a principle of sculptural mutability, an emblem of modernity. It responds to the variability of modern life, the experimental openness of the modern. For Brancusi it is a basic generative principle, equally validated by philosophy, science and esoterism and as an artistic method, a microcosmic counterpart to the creation of the world. Only photography preserves the dimension of an ars combinatoria in his art. Only photography shows that Brancusi belongs with the great combinatorialists of modernism, Satie, Schönberg, Mallarmé, and Joyce.
Brancusi in the World Review London, 1949: “Why write? Why not just show the photographs?”
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Cabinet#1: Constantin Brancusi, Photographien