The Sculpture Question
Merleau-Ponty Research Project

Perhaps more than any other philosopher, reference to the ideas of Merleau-Ponty, and the methodology for his phenomenology of perception, have been central to the theoretical context of thinking about the ‘space of’ and ‘engagement with’ sculpture since the late 1960s. In the context of the reception of sculptural works these ideas were initially used by Rosalind Krauss to articulate and encapsulate her experience of the work of Donald Judd and then later to differentiate the kinds of complex experience engendered through the work of post-minimal sculptors such as Richard Serra. To do this Krauss used Merleau-Ponty’s ideas to focus on a perception that is grounded in the capacity of the body to both move, effect and be affected by its potential to extend and orient itself in relation to particular structurings of spaces. In the context of ‘Eye and Mind’ Merleau-Ponty aligned this attitude directly within the activity of the artist, as embedded in a co-extensive and reciprocally affective relationship to things in the world, as opposed to an abstracted position in relation to a generality of things.

Working within ‘The Sculpture Question’ research cluster at the Unversity for the Creative Arts, we set out to explore issues of the perception of infinite spaces through various ‘devices’ for multiplying a given structure. In each case the space alluded to is contained or framed in some sense, exploring the geometric relationship to the plane or planes in which it is multiplied, and the perceptual experience of these in the context of such framing.