I spent the whole of last week on holiday in the north woods of Wisconsin – forcefully but happily disconnected from the connected world. I spent a lot of the week crafting cocktails, enjoying the exuberance of my nephews, and staring at trees, which, as I get older, has easily become the best thing about spending time in the woods. In the late 1970s, in an attempt to “live off the grid” my parents bought forty acres of land and built a modest house set a mile back from the nearest road, which only just recently was upgraded from gravel to blacktop. It was the first house my brother and I called home, but even more significantly this place–the land, the trees, and the house–has become the physical and emotional bedrock of our family. So what does this have to do with sculpture or sculptural things? Perhaps nothing. Perhaps this post is just excuse to remain a little longer amongst the singing birds and leaves blowing in the breeze, but after almost forty years my parents decided to renovate the property, an ongoing process that led to the addition of the structure pictured above, in its unfinished state a couple of summers back. Witnessing and being involved in these changes has made me acutely aware of the ways in which architecture exerts immense power over our experience of the spaces we inhabit; the power to contain and shelter, to both bring us closer to and separate us from surrounding landscapes.
Which is a longwinded and perhaps overly personal way of getting to the fact that my time in the woods prompted a good deal of reflection about structures, sites, and space, but very little about sculpture, at least as such. These are terms shared by both disciplines, whose histories have always been intertwined or at least adjacent to one another. In addition to their engagement with size, volume, and mass, architecture and sculpture both possess transmutable disciplinary boundaries and generate the equally ambiguous adjectives “sculptural” and “architectural.” Traditionally, they have been distinguished through functionality and accessibility to interior space. They both shape and construct, but architecture creates structures, often in sizes unmatched by anything within sculptural practice, involving imminently more rigorous, complex engineering. Simply put, buildings have use value and are spaces you can enter and inhabit. Continue reading “Inhabiting: A woodsy reflection on the relationship between sculpture and architecture”