march 16 / 2009

In the last lesson I wanted to discuss some objects that were more important for the processes that they contained, rather than for their state at a given moment in time. I chose some works by Eva Hesse, Joseph Beuys and Hans Haacke. These were: Schema, Fat Corner and Condensation Wall.

I remade the 12 x 12 hemisphere matrix out of plasticine. It had been build by Eva Hesse out of latex in the 60s. In its case, the process contained was decomposition. Some of her works dissappeared in time, what the museums conserved being replicas of those objects.

Eva Hesse was an intelligent sculptor, who knew very well what every material could offer in terms of physical properties. Even so, she chose to use molding substances, that were very interesting from a visual and tactile point of view. However, these materials were going to disintegrate in time.

Compared with this work, Judd's objects seem rigid. Eva Hesse was associated with post minimalism for the very reason that the objects she produced seem more connected to the imaginary of the human body, with its flexible and soft textures, rather than being similar to industrial objects.

The Minimalist grid, with its rational ordering in series and geometric arrangements is very strongly humanized by the small errors of placement of the modules and by all of those construction differences between the modules themselves. The sensitivity of Eva Hesse is closer to the human skin than to the perfect surfaces of glass or metal.

With Joseph Beuys, physical processes take on a spiritual resonance. However, on a pragmatic level, his fat corners are connected to the same process of decomposition. The organic matter is transformed in time from a chemical point of view, becoming something else.

More than Eva Hesse, who was interested in the plasticity of materials and their temporary aspect, Beuys was also captivated by a symbolic explanation of objects and actions. The processes contained in the things he produced were literal illustrations of spiritual realities. Even though they were contained in the object, they were not necessarily easy to decipher. Beuys was fascinated by the flow of energy and the transformation of matter, because he perceived the world as an ever-changing entity.

Thus, the warmth of human love was symbolically linked with termodimamics, inside a imaginary universe in which the physical and the spiritual lived in close connection. For him felt, wax, and fat were matters that stored energy, but not only on a pragmatic level.

Hans Haacke proposes a more rationalist approach to processes. Condensation Wall is in fact a watertank in which water evaporates and then becomes liquid again, by touching the cold glass walls of the container (made of plexiglas in the case of the original piece). The one who looks at the object inside a gallery has access to a reduced version of an ecosystem, or, better said, to a perfect illustration of the water circuit in nature. The evaporation / condensation process is continuous, being set in motion by the physical properties of water.