“The domestication of absolute architecture takes place in our minds.” – Magdalena Jetelova
The subject of today’s post is another Jetelovà milestone, an installation entitled “Domestication of a Pyramid“, constructed in Vienna, Warsaw and Prague between 1991 and 1994. A large fragment of a pyramid, covered with volcanic ashes, is contained inside a gallery. Since only a fraction of the pyramid is visible, one can only imagine that the rest of the structure continues outside. The work deals with the dislocation between perception and imagination and with the theme of domestication of the pure form through direct observation and, essentially, through thought. Furthermore it raises questions concerning the nature of our culture, in that it intersects an archetypal -eastern- form with the ‘humanized’ western architecture of, ex. the Viennese Museum of Applied Art.
Here follows the description of the work:
The Viennese Museum of Applied Art is a typical example of Ringstrasse architecture: an elegant, richly ornamented Neo-Renaissance building with an inner peristyle hall and galleries. Upon entering the building, the visitor finds himself/herself, surprisingly, in a darkened, curved space: soon he/she discovers that he/she is standing under large, slanted scaffolding. He/she instinctively walks to the right, where there is a way out. When he/she returns to the daylight, he/she finds himself/herself in the Museum hall, standing next to a thirteen-meter high tilted wall covered in red silica sand. The wall slices the inner space of the Museum diagonally across two floors, slashing razor-like through pillars and balustrades up to the ceiling. The wall, tilted at a 45° angle and with a base thirty-five meters long, is a fragment of one side of a pyramid which could continue in the exterior of the Museum building.
A space on a scale which greatly exceeds the size of the host building is inserted into the museum’s interior. Despite its dimensions, it is only a fragment of a whole known to us, which in an imaginary way continues beyond the borders of the Museum building and which we can mentally reconstruct as a pyramid. Domestication primarily stems from the fact that we can already imagine it based on the fragment we have at our disposal because we have become well acquainted with its form in our minds. On the entirely specific level, domestication—taming—can be seen in the possibility of walking around the pyramid from all sides, from the inside as well as from the outside; taking a look at its base from the gallery above, experiencing it from a perspective that people were to be denied. This, however, does not change anything about the fact that the essence of the form is mental, not physical. The entire pyramid is only realized through thought.
The intersection of the eastern archetypal monument—the pyramid—and its absolute geometry with ‘humanized’ western architecture, its small details and scale, raises questions concerning the nature of our culture, whereby our stable coordinates which anchor us in the world become relative.
Other pyramids have been constructed at various locations in Europe, but only in Vienna is the pyramid physically accessible both from the inside and outside; in Warsaw and Berlin the surface of the structure can be observed from the outside, which, because it is covered with volcanic ashes, evokes the feeling of a full compact mass, poured into the form of a heap. The confrontation of the eastern monument and European cultural history takes place differently each time, and yet on the same principle. The domestication of absolute architecture takes place in our minds.
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