A Phenomenological Model for Public Sculpture, José Guilherme Abreu

A phenomenological model for public sculpture

José Guilherme Abreu

“What, then, do we mean by the word ‘place’? Obviously we mean something more than abstract location. We mean a totality made up of concrete things, having a material substance, shape, texture and colour. Together, these things determine an ‘environmental character’, which is the essence of place”

Christian Norberg-Schulz, Genius Loci , 1980

1. Public Art as place and mediation

In Genius Loci, Norberg-Schulz asserts the value of place for the comprehension and the reformulation of the architectonic praxis. In the epilogue of modernity, Schulz denounces the lack of character the places of modernity have, and which is evidenced by poverty of stimuli, since “from psychological literature we know that a general poverty of stimuli may cause passivity and reduced intellectual capacity”. (Norberg-Schulz, C, 1980, p. 191).

In the centre of that denouncement lies the path opened by heideggerian ontology, whose first application to architectonic theory had its origin in the Bauen-Wohnen-Denken Conference, that took place in 1951, in the Darmstädter Verlaganstalt, imbedded in a larger Symposium whose generic theme was architecture, having Heidegger’s Conference provoked a quite hostile reaction, on an audience mainly composed by modern architects.

So hostile was that reaction, that Spanish philosopher Ortega y Gasset had to step up in defense of Heidegger’s points of view, as he says in his Complete Works, (IX, pp. 629-30).

It’s curious to notice, that, while in the beginning of the creation of the architectonic modern movement, the more vehement denounces were then focused in the horrible conditions of hygiene, salubrity and comfort that characterized European dwelling after World War II, nowadays more radical denounces follow quite an opposite path, no more focusing in the quality of physical conditions of the house and the city, but in the intellectual and aesthetic poverty of those conditions, and also in the social and spiritual pathologies the lack of identity of the places where peoples live help to develop.

This theoretic turn, supposes a new look upon architecture, city space, culture and art. A new look whose main concerns Heidegger had already noticed in Brief über den Humanismus, a text written, in 1946, to Jean Beaufret, that had its first publication in 1947, as one of the main and crucial texts of the emerging post-war era, although its reception and adhesion was blessed by the hermetic character of its language, by the speciousness’ meanders of his thinking, and, worse of all, by the condemnable equivoques e conducts of Heidegger, during the period when, in the III Reich, he directed Freiburg’s University, until he resigned.

So, one can say that it is based on some kind of recuperation and actualization of the heideggerian exegesis, that the theoretic work of Christian Norberg-Schulz engages a redefinition and clarification of emerging post-modernity, organizing itself much on the way of a phenomenological return to reality, that asserts, in one hand, as already had said Lyotard, the failure of the Great Narratives, but, one the other, asserting too, as we think, that ‘la fin de fête’ of modernity, beyond all hangovers, frustrations and incognita, carry the germs of a more accurate and rooted knowledge, in a word, a knowledge more conscientious of the place it occupies in the world, and the role it engages in culture.

We think that before going any further, it is important to make up this point: place it’s not the mere abstract localization where events occur and space and things deal with one another, reduced to its GPS coordinates. Place, as Norberg-Schulz says, it’s a totality of meanings. A totality made up by concrete things that, as a whole, create a certain environment: an atmosphere of its own that lays in the idea of “environmental character”. However, before going on, it’s useful to notice that instead of asserting a concept, environmental character denotes a value, once for the author “Place is therefore a qualitative ‘total’ phenomenon, which we cannot reduce to any of its proprieties, such as spatial relationships, without losing its concrete nature.” (Norberg-Schulz, 1980, p.8)

It matters, for a while, to stop and think a little about the expression ‘concrete nature’, because, instead of what at first glance might seem, the description of quantitative aspects of the geography, topography and geometry of the site cannot gather the concrete nature of place, and that’s why those kind of descriptions can never learn it in a proper manner, for place it’s not only held by the size of its configurations and aspects, but also shaped by what in it is presented, accepted and hidden, and those dimensions, in the end, are only obtained by direct and live experience: an experience opened to different levels of quality, or qualitative totalities, for, as Schulz says, “Being qualitative totalities of a complex nature, places cannot be described by means of analytic, ‘scienti­fic’ concepts. As a matter of principle, science ‘abstracts’ from the given to arrive at neutral, ‘objective’, knowledge.”(Norberg-Schulz, 1980, p.8)

So, everything is meant as if the neutralized objectivity of science could not be able to describe what deals with the concrete experience of place, something that put us before a disgraceful impasse.

That’s why a profound reform of the scientific thought is so much needed, and, with the author, we think that the prosecution of that reform and the transposition of that impasse lay in the phenomenological method, being phenomenology, in his opinion, “a return to things, […] opposed to abstractions and mental constructions” (Norberg-Schulz, 1980, p. 8).

As a matter of fact, it’s much easier acting from mental constructions, abstract models and previous made ideas, than upon reflections and theories that search its origin in the perception and comprehension of the “contact” we have with things and places.

So, in order to study art, and mainly in order to study public art, having direct contact with things and making reflections around the experience and theory of place, is something of a great and vital importance, for, in a much radical way, the work of public art is therefore a work of art in the world, and not a work of art beside the world, being place its horizon and habitat, in permanence.

The perception of this circumstance, one must recognize it, steps out in defense of phenomenology, being nowadays more and more frequent the number of authors that are against the idea of building knowledge and science, both from naturalist presuppositions and from formal or transcendent axioms, one thing that is quite clear when we deal with trans-disciplinary procedures, theory and aims.

Because of that, phenomenological method have lately start to come out of the strict philosophical confinement in which he had been locked up, and begun to sustain a wide range of research practices, as it learns us the work of Clark Moustakas.

Being so, one must recognize that a public art work cannot be approached just as a mere thing, without analyzing the places and the means of presentation in which the very works appear in the world, for the work is the thing plus its reception. And its reception is affected by the endless number and kind of relationships and connotations the ways of their presentation raise and hide. Relationships of space, perception, time and meaning, gathering a complex of readings that integrate physical, sensorial, historic and semantic slopes, what means to say that the ways and configurations of their presentation are not accidental or superfluous, and should not be neglected, when the purpose is to interrogate the work of art and its phenomenon.

By the way, it’s useful to refer the case of Krzysztof Wodiczko, a contemporary artist whose work consists in the projection, at night, of images upon the façades of the more famous monuments in the main cities of the Occident, such as this projection shown on the left that was made in Madrid, Spain, just days after the outbreak of the Gulf War, in January 1991, upon the triumphal arch that celebrates the victory of Generalissimo Francisco Franco in the Spanish Civil War.

Much ironic and highly critical, all the impact of his projections depend on the ways (at night) and the places (the monuments) where they are displayed, and that’s this richness that makes public art to become one of the artistic genres more live and actuating.

And because it’s so, the indifference with which is generally received contemporary artistic production, derives from the fact that the most of it is too much conditioned by the means of presentation and the forms of mediation that characterizes the claustrophobic atmosphere of museums and galleries, thus quite modifying the perception and comprehension of nowadays art condition, for not only the same piece raises much different readings and interpretations, according to if it is displayed in the gallery, in the museum or on the public space, but also because of the type of mediations that the appearance of a work of art depend of, according to if it is displayed in the museum, the gallery or the public space, for as we know now the medium is the message.

2. The loss of place

In the Gallery, the piece shows itself as an object that is looking for a “place” in the present art world. In order to do it, a complex net, formed by “marchands d’art”, art critics, collectors, and press, is web, so that a relationship can be established between the artist, the collectors, the public, and the piece, with the intention of seducing and mobilizing them.

Obviously, that’s a highly uncertain and a quite instable ground, for the mediations that are about to be establish there, can change in a much unpredictable way, since there are no fixed precepts that may guarantee, in a stable and coherent form, the logic of artistic value, once it depends on the contingencies of the very mediations that all actors play, and gamble, around the rolls they perform, that circumstance giving occasion to situations where perplexity and sensation often can act as an interface between the art work and the art world, hoping that the performance of the presentation can fill the void of sense (in a rhetoric form aesthetically sustained) in which is embedded the mainstream of nowadays artistic condition.

Differently, in the Museum, the work of art, instead of finding a space of seduction, gains a space of consecration. In the Museum, the art work is homologated, gaining with full right its “place”, in the building of the great narrative of the evolution and investigation of the art history. Museums are absolutely institutional territories, polarized by curators and commissaries of expositions, assisted by an immense battalion of specialists and communicators. Owning a highly specific and specialized knowledge, the mediations these actors establish there, pretend to settle, to systematize, to ascribe and to disseminate a certain sense for contemporary artistic production. The place museums in this context are, is therefore absolutely determinative. Through them, are constituted, at a quite institutional level, the historical and cultural ordination and comprehension of the present being and the evolutional trends of art, laying the essence of the mediations that are to be established there, in the selection, seriation and promotion of the very works.

It is therefore in this context of presentation and mediation that the art work actually appears, as a work of art, to the public. Seldom is there a close and direct contact between art and the public. Because of being so much shown in the seductive environment of the Gallery and in the “sacred” ambience of the museum, it seems that out of those spaces the work of art is no longer a work of art, for his fascination and credibility have been so much related with the mundane glamour of vernissages, and the solemn ceremonial of the Great Expositions and their Catalogues.

In order to understand this matter, it’s useful to see how the Museum and the Gallery, in this case, le Salon, would become, the first since the end of the 18th century, and the second, during the 19th, the most efficient tools for the standing and building, respectively, of a historical and official narrative and an artistic promotional policy and agenda.

Through the Museum, the works of art were then presented as a link and a testimony of a stylistic succession, historically developed e determined, within its evolution and narrative conceptions, proclaimed by the positivist catechism. Through the Salon, the works were presented as sortilege and emblem of the individual artist, who step out as candidate to the starlight of academic art.

Paradigmatic and founder component of the first construct, Le Musée des Monuments Français was created in Paris in the Couvent des Petits Augustins, in the 25 October 1795, by the Comité d’Instruction Public, officially announced as a “musée historique et chronologique où l’on retrouvera les âges de la sculpture française dans les salles particulières, en donnant à chacune le caractère, la physionomie exacte du siècle qu’elle représent” (Poulot, D., 1986, p. 504), exactitude of course absolutely virtual, for it displayed nothing more than a showing off, as today we can understand by the descriptions of his dedicated director, Alexandre Lenoir:

À la veille de sa dispersion, en 1814, les cours renferment les éléments de la façade orientale du château d’Écouen et les portiques du château de Gaillon. On accède en suite, par une galerie du cloître a la ‘salle d’introduction’ où son rassemblées des œuvres de toute époque, depuis les temps gallo-romains jusqu’au siècle classique. Le cœur du musée est une succession de salles, consacrées chacune a un siècle, du XIIIème au XVIIème. La lumière du jour, presque totalement absente du XIIIème entre peu à peu dans les pièces suivantes, pour inonder de clarté le XVII, des virtus triomphantes.

[…] Enfin les jardins de l’ancien couvent, transformés depuis 1799 en Elysée, sont un aimable panthéon de fabriques, dont le ‘ Tombeau d’Héloïse e d’Abélard ’ est la plus illustre. À la sortie on peut acheter le catalogue descriptif du musée qui, en sus de notices sur les statues et morceaux exposés, fournit toute un série de renseignements, anecdotes, compilations, dignes d’un Quid artistique : sur la peinture sur verre, port de la barbe, les costumes de différentes époques… En 1815 sort la douzième édition; il compte également une traduction anglaise” (Poulot, D., 1986, p. 504)

With this description, one can clearly see how this construct, which at first glance might seem naive, afterwards is frankly intentional and fully artificial, for the visitor, after being confronted with the irrational amount and display of pieces of different times, shown in the ‘salle d’introdution’, is presented with a chronological seriation, which is in the end much more than that, since it is se conceived as a means of a valuation, patent in the scenic effects of the illumination of the rooms, according a bright progression from 13th to 18th century, as an obvious metaphor of the apology of « Enlightenment ».

In fact, the Musée des Monuments Français performed a transfiguration of the effigies of the Ancien Régime, when showing them as historic characters, that is to say, as testimonies of the stages of the historical evolution (the advent of light), inserting them in a chronology that supplanted them and prevailed, and expressing indeed not his own individual greatness (like the princes and courtesans of the Renaissance), but the grander of the fact of being figures of the great universal man incarnating the permanence of French virtue, as it is clearly explained by Lenoir, when he stances his purpose of remembering “personages qui ont  illustré leur siècle par ses talents et honoré la nation française par la moralité” (Poulot, D., 1986, p. 509).

We cannot analyze here in detail the historic role the Musée des Monuments Français had in the definition and consolidation of an historical narrative, made from the fragments of monuments, tombs and statues. But it was a big one, having namely contributed to a clear evaluation of The Middle Ages, until then connoted with Barbary, this way establishing the chronological continuum and relativity, while staged and emphasized the notion of historical evolution, intensifying thus the idea of a continuous progress of the mankind.

How could Lenoir reach such effect? His main tool was the de-contextualization of the pieces. Being removed from their original place, the monuments and sculptures that previously displayed the proud and powerful voice of sovereigns and masters, suddenly became quite docile and dreamy, making it easy to treat them as things, so that they could be used elements of scenographic arrangements and narrative composition, once as

Dominique Poulot says “la nouveauté radicale des ‘Petits-Augustins’ réside dans la juxtaposition des monuments royaux de Saint-Denis, des tombes des grands serviteurs venues des églises parisiennes et des fabriques élevées par Lenoir aux artistes et aux autres personnalités pittoresques. Elle coïncide avec l’élaboration d’une ‘nouvelle histoire’ nationale, autour de la commission de savants, […] dont le journal de Puthod, ‘Les Monuments ou le pèlerinage historique’ se veut le porte-parole” (Poulot, D., 1986, p. 512).

Talking about the second construct, le Salon, had also a decisive role, while distinct and in a way even opposite to the one the museum did. It’s enough to see the images that we have nowadays, with its dense disposition of canvas and the chaotic pile of statues, to one can notice that the purpose of it was not to built narratives, but on the opposite to refrain them, for the established readings did not proceed from the work, being instead absolutely transcendent to them, since le Salon more than an exhibition of works, was an exhibition of characters, being those no more than the needed pretext for the appearance of these.

That’s why modern art was, initially, born upon the double refuse towards Museums and Salons, discarding both the rhetoric’s of Academy and the obedience to styles and manners.

The alternative was then to go looking in search of new motives in the wide open spaces, where shinned the truth of form revealed by light (Cézanne), and tune oneself by the diapason of the affinities with primitivism and the totemic (Gauguin), or appearing as the radical e suffered expression of the refuse of the dominant Weltschaung (Van Gogh).

The story is well known, and it’s no use to repeat it here. It only matters to notice that the return of Galleries and Museums as the main and almost unique place for the presentation of contemporary art, is concomitant with the transfer of the centre of artistic production from Paris to New York, since until the cataclysm of World War II, the place of presentation and contact between the work of modern art and the public, occurred, in large scale, in the cafés, night clubs and squares, which were the truly siege of the art world, for it was there that were webbed, by means of conviviality, antagonism and rivalry, the new mediations that would be in the genesis of modernism, since under the apparent neutrality of the bohème parisienne , was indeed hidden a highly coherent and intensely lived intentional complex, where conceptions and values of a libertarian kind, were in perfect consonance with the trends of what would at last become the essence of modernism, being the streets and the public places of Montparnasse and Montmartre, the seat and the horizon, in a word, the place, of those mediations.

With the transfer of the art centre from Paris to New York, that occurred during the dramatic circumstances of the Nazi escalade to whom modern art was seen as degenerated art, in order to survive, modern art was forced to become institutionalized, thus loosing the rooting it had before in every-day life spaces of European centres. Spaces like MoMA, directed by Alfred Barr or like the Gallery Art of This Century, directed by Peggy Guggenheim e Max Ernst, had a top role in the survival of modern art, as it was known, under such dramatic circumstances.

One must recognize this fact: without New York and American welcome, for sure modern art would not survive the Nazi terror, and probably would fade out, before the lack of freedom to create and to experiment his works required.

However that circumstance brought modern art back to the captivity of the pair Gallery/Museum, without the other compensations it had in Europe, something which originated serious distortions in the ways of conceiving, understanding and appreciating art.

But nothing is quite linear, and although that circumstance had induced distortions in the production and reception of art, in time it provoked also a huge contrary reaction, and now it’s quite clear to understand how much of the anxious libertarian demand of the sixties had to see with the rejection of the institutionalization and the mercantilism that ruled, until then, the art world and the artistic professional activity.

We will not refer to that process in detail, but it seems to us clear that the path opened by Land Art and Earth Works that British and north-American artists created in the early seventies, have much in common with the rejection of the Museum and the Salon which at the end of the 19th century, created the conditions for the breakthrough of modern art, standing against the claustrophobic enclosing of institutionalized art.

3. The demand of place

As before, it was once again by refusing its institutional locus that artists departed in search of the reinvention of the work of art. However, this time, more than mere forms, more than just motives, what seemed to be the core of the work of artists such as Richard Long, Robert Smithson, Nancy Holt, or Alberto Carneiro, was indeed the aesthetic experience itself, whose intention transcended the materials and documents that, afterwards, fixed it.

This new condition of art, leaded by something we still call sculpture, had Rosalind Krauss designated as “negative condition”. By its hand, in her opinion, sculpture entered an absolutely pilgrim period, for sculpture had lost the pedestal that rooted it to the place. To Krauss, now on sculpture defined itself according to the concept of “ expanded field ”, following some kind of structure, that appeared as a quadrate of logical and formal possibilities, polarized by two major horizontal axis, one of them, neuter, representing the residual space formed by the double negative of the categories architecture e landscape, and the other, complex, representing the integral space formed by the double inclusion of the same categories, thus defining, in the first case the formal realm of sculpture, and in the second the formal realm of site-construction , much in the same way of Land Art.

However the expansion of the sculptural field couldn’t stop here, since beyond the classes formed by the double exclusion or inclusion of the categories architecture and landscape, the confrontation of the two axis, according to Rosalind Krauss, allow her to conceive two other (topo)logical possibilities: the one that proceed from the tension that acts between the categories landscape and not-landscape, and the other that proceed now from the tension between architecture and not-architecture, his paradoxical syn­thesis being achieved, in the first place, by marked-sites and, in the other, by axiomatic structures (fig. 1).

Fig. 1– Rosalind E. Krauss, Sculpture in the Expanded Field, In, October, nº 8, MIT Press, 1979, pp. 30-44

According to Krauss’s model, sculpture is classified by the means of formal and logical criteria, in this sense, being, as we see it, a classical model, in spite of the fact that within this structure the work of art is not classified according to the intrinsic proprieties of the piece or pieces that constitute it, being thus worth enough to include the background upon which the work appears, as an integrated part of the piece, stopping this one to be seen as limited to its volumetric enclosure, as it happened with the traditional concept of ronde bosse.

However, this effort of topological inclusion doesn’t seem us to be enough. Beyond its gestalt framing, in order to ordinate and range sculpture within the present condition of expanded field or loss of place, which is equivalent, requires that the topological inclusion itself be completed with a phenomenologic opening to the inclusion of the values inherent to the environmental character of the place – locus – as to the analysis of the intentional core of meanings – kern – and the fine description of its formal presence – eidos – that are meant to be aimed by the works (vide, Abreu, J.G., 2001, pp. 91-115).

And that phenomenologic opening implies the definition of new topo-phenomenological entities, instead the topo-logical ones, in order to guarantee the restitution of the sculptural body to the Genius Loci, retrieving then its intentional meaning and presence, as a means for touching and learning the very essence of its public condition.

4. The topo-phenomenological complex

Being so, and beginning by the analysis of its locus, public sculpture categories, within the complex formed by the relationship with architecture and landscape, as the empiric study reveals it, appears as an installation or modulation of four instances: urban environment, natural environment, rural environment and sacred environment.

However, as a topo-phenomenologic opening, its constitution (we prefer to use the husserlian notion of constitution instead the linguistic one of structure) cannot stop here, for the analysis of locus should be crossed with the analysis of the intentional core, kern, that is meant by the works, thus appearing other four intentional classes, constituted by the ontological meanings that are in their origin: remembrance, devotion, qualification and animation.

In order to complete this frame, one must still apprehend the eidos of its formal presence, since the return back to things themselves, claimed by phenomenological approach, learns us that we must not only consider the environmental character of the place and the ontological nexus of the work, but also that we should look for the ontic aspects by means of which it appears to us: monumental work, ornamental work, objectual work and conceptual work.

Before going any further in theory, let us precise these notions. Beginning by the modalities of locus , it matters to notice, with Norberg-Schulz, that the structure of place “should be described in terms of ‘landscape’ and ‘settlement’, and analyzed by means of the categories ‘space’ and ‘character’”. According to this formula, beginning at a macro level, in terms of the dichotomy landscape/settlement, should be considered the following possibilities:

1. Preponderance of settlement and minimization of landscape: urban environment

2. Preponderance of landscape and minimization of settlement: natural environment

3. Preponderance of settlement and preponderance of landscape: rural environment

4. Minimization of settlement and minimization of landscape: sacred environment

On the other hand, changing to a micro level, focalizing on particular cases of specific places in urban, rural, natural or sacred environment, now in terms of the dichotomy space/character, other aspects must be considered, such as substance, form, texture and colour, within the orientation prescribed by Norberg-Schulz.

Thus, the locus of public sculpture varies qualitatively in gender and in degree. In gender, by the intentionality present in the four categories: urban environment, natural environment, rural environment and sacred environment. But it varies also in degree, when considering the level macro or micro of each locus’s horizon.

According to the works’ intentional core of sense – kern – it varies according to four intentional classes, divided in two distinct axis of signification. First, we talk about the order of narrativity. Then, we talk about the order of imageability. By narrativity, we mean the plastic or iconic fixation of messages and ethic values, aesthetically intended. By imageability, we mean the plastic or iconic fixation of forms and aesthetic values, ethically intended.

Analyzing at first the intentional meaning of the order of narrativity, we think that it consubstantiates itself according to two distinct possibilities. First, we talk about remembrance, when the main intention it’s to iconograph deeds or persons that acquired a certain historical relevance, by the impact of their occurrence or the value of their action to the collective existence and evolution. Secondly, we talk about devotion, when the main intention is to iconograph beliefs or subjects of a sacred time, as an incarnation of the transcendence of a divine mission.

In other to clarify this essential distinction, it is useful to introduce here some concepts and tools used in Anthropology, namely convoking the works of Mircea Eliade, where the notion of hierophany shows very well, that the ditch and the transposition between sacred and profane time and space, is nothing more than transcendental and intentional one.

Analyzing next the intentional meaning of the order of imageability, we think that it consubstantiates itself according also to two distinct possibilities. First, we talk about qualification when the main intention is to add or to give character to a certain urban or landscape ensemble that the chaotic or the monotone aspect of its configurations, alone, shows lack of meaning or identity. Then, we talk about animation when the main intention is to present and express the meaning, the use or o the character that possesses a certain architectonic singularity.

Of this fundamental distinction tell us recent Urban History, namely the Oriol Bohigas’s plan for the monumentalization of the Barcelona periphery, as a means for adding aesthetic value and symbolic meaning to the more uncharacteristic parts of the city, such as, for example, the district of Poble Nou. Here, the construction of Via Julia and its punctuation with iconic and non-iconic monuments shows quite well how public sculpture can add character and meaning to some de-characterized and amorphous spaces. Besides that, in a different logic of intervention, the inclusion of architectonic singularities obeying to some quite specific programs inserted in a urban fabric that lacks an healthy character, in order to stand and stance an alternative or disruptive individuality before surrounding diversity or adversity, the architectural intervention often uses sculpture as a means to monumentalize not the ensemble, but a precise building whose implantation, in such an hostile or degraded environment, its program aims to overcome. That is the case, remaining with the Barcelona example, of the implantation of MACBA (Museum of Contemporary Art of Barcelona), in the middle of the depressed and multicultural quarter of Raval, being its façade and yard punctuated by Jorge Oteiza’s sculpture La Ola, (the wave), expressing and illustrating the cultural and aesthetic dimensions the program of that building has, whose equivalent, in a quite different context, can be found in the Fountain and Kinetic Sculpture , created in 1982-83 by Niki de Saint Phalle and Jean Tinguely at Igor Stravinsky Plaza, nearby the Beaubourg Centre, being a Portuguese echo found in the implantation of the Gardening Spoon , by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, quite visible from the exterior of Serralves Contemporary Art Museum, in Oporto.

Analyzing, in the end, the eidos of sculpture’s formal presence, we think it consubstantiates equally according to two distinct modalities. First, we have a hierarchical presence, varying between monument and ornament. Secondly, we have a material presence, varying between object and concept. Hierarchical presence, first, since the logic of the monument is opposed to that of the ornament, even if both terms conceptually and formally compete and complete one another.

Through monumental logic, sculpture raises or extends over the space, impregnating it with its ontological presence. It doesn’t matter at all, if that superposition might be vertical, as it happened with 19th century monuments; or horizontal, as it does with the Land Art’s manipulations. In both cases, its eidos is the monumental formula. On the other hand, through ornamental logic, sculpture accepts and opens itself to some specific space, disseminating itself through its meanders and echoing its character.

Through material presence, sculpture displays its ontic condition, since the presence of objects is quite different than that of concepts. Through objectual presence, sculptural eidos is given indirectly (Husserl would say in an inadequate manner), molded, carved or assembled, through the literality of its materials. Through the conceptual presence (adequate to Husserl) the eidos of sculptural form is given directly, referred, descript or suggested, in a pure transcendental way, since there is a huge difference between cutting out on an iron sheet, in a negative or positive form, the “silhouette” of a horse, or cutting out on another similar sheet of iron, in a negative or positive form, the word “horse”.

5. The genetic-temporal complex.

By means of relating and double-crossing locus, kern and eidos, we think that an expanded perception of sculpture, and mainly public sculpture, can be attained. However, we are still talking about a static form of comprehension, which discards temporal dimension. Once in Art History temporal dimension is the core (kern) of all analysis and elaborations, it matters a lot, that more than just relating and double-crossing locus, kern and eidos descriptions and analysis, one should also consider cronos – the chronological dimension – laying here, in a matter of fact, the biggest challenge. Big challenge, since the majority of Works related to public art and public sculpture, although its production in the last years had not stopped from growing, when we talk about the level of historicity, one have to recognize that those works are often negligent, appearing almost every time as case-studies, usually displaying aesthetical or critical approaches.

A new trans-disciplinary approach is therefore needed, in order to overcome the limitations of the static conceptions of husserlian phenomenology and heideggerian ontology.

To guide us in that demand, we convoke the structural methodology discovered and used by Raymond Abellio, in his capital work: La Structure Absolue.

Obviously, we cannot describe here the theory and the gnosis that legitimate this method, and we have to address who may be interested in it in studding his work, though his main books are now worldly tired out, and in Portugal one can count by the fingers of just one hand the number of public and university libraries that keep it in their heap.

As we see it now, after having studded it for some time, we think that the Absolute Structure is based on a quite rigorous method, which intend as his theoretic scope to continue and to actualize the husserlian project of creating an Universal Ontology, siege and instance of radical and cutting-edge like type of knowledge, at the same time universal and interdependent:

… la structure absolue, ne se donne pas comme une recette ou une méthode d’organisation ou de classification entre d’autres, mais comme un pouvoir universel engageant un mode entièrement nouveau de connaissance, c’est-à-dire, de communication avec le monde et, par conséquent aussi un mode entièrement nouveau d’existence. D’elle découle une nouvelle  Analytique  que le présent ouvrage applique aux domaines de l’ontologie, de la théologie e de l’anthropologie, mais qui trouverait aussi bien son emploi à la cosmologie, cependant qu’elle informe de même une Esthétique et une  Éthique d’ailleurs dialectiquement liées. (Abellio, R., 1965, p. 33)

It matters to repeat, that what makes this method so much appealing for investigation, is indeed the possibility it opens, of mapping and understanding transformation – evolutions or involutions – in process inside some given “pertinent field”, as it can act like a guide, offering many types and levels of gnoseologic assistance.

At a practical level, its scope is to relate and represent the structural dialectical tensions, between the top and strongest oppositions that interact in any pertinent field, appearing those oppositions as the four main poles of a chain of two crossed and opposed interactions displaying two poles each one.

At a preliminary stage of structuring, these poles are obtained by some kind of husserlian like eidetic reductions, and in a subsequent stage another pair of oppositions, meant like some kind of cosmological axis-mundi, linking and facing the most profound rooting in the immanent, as an absolute incarnation in diversity, and the most elevated climb till the transcendent, as an absolute assumption in unity, as the author teach us:

J’arrivais ainsi à la première règle de la structuration:  Dans un champs donné, la première « phase » de la structuration consiste à reconnaître quatre pôles répartis en deux paires antagonistes, qui engagent le mouvement dialectique par deux rotations en sens inverses . Cette règle, tout le présent ouvrage essaiera d’en montrer l’universalité. La deuxième « phase » est d’ailleurs synchrone à la première. En effet, les deux rotations en sens inverse appellent la présence d’un axe de rotation, lui-même bipolaire qui marque l’« évolution », ou plutôt l’ouverture du système, dans les deux sens opposés de la différenciation et de l’intégration, également croissantes du champ. Aucun champ ne pouvant être considéré comme clos, il est nécessaire que la structure serve en quelque sorte de charnière commune à tous les champs « successifs »  de plus en plus étendus et de plus en plus intégrantes, avant d’être, à la « fin » du processus la structure unique et unifiante de l’univers, c’est-à-dire du champ de tous les champs.

C’est donc finalement un ensemble de  six pôles  dialectiquement liés qui constitue la structure absolue, immobile et immutable dont nous voulons retrouver la présence à tous les « niveaux » et dans toutes les « ordres » de la manifestation. Aussi l’appelons-nous couramment  structure sénaire ou plus simplement le sénaire. (Abellio, R., 1965, pp. 21-22)

Talking about the model we are trying to build, one must notice that the first “stage” of the structure have been already set up, once the recognition of the four intentional classes of the topo-phenomenologic complex , correspond to the four poles in dialectic tension within the pertinent field of public sculpture, as they were obtained by successive eidetic reductions, by means of the noetic-noematic analysis of its intentional sense.

Let’s set up, then, the second stage of the structure, once the inversion of the eidetic sense of rotation, that possesses the “cross” formed by the order of narrativity, which integrates the “eidos” of the opposed pair of remembrance and devotion , and, in the other hand, the order of imageability , which integrates the “eidos” of the opposed pair of qualification and animation , in order that those “rotations” wont loose their nexus, and disperse themselves in the void, it is well needed the presence of a third bipolar and vertical axis of pure “eidetic rotation”, that can guarantee the cohesion and integrity of the system, simultaneously inducing its evolution, when “opening” it to the two opposed directions of differentiation and integration .

Through this last stage, it is possible to integrate the temporal dimension in the structure, and so to Project and to follow the transformation processes – evolutions and involutions – that take place in the pertinent field , and that can be analysed and interpreted through senarian structuration.

Now, a quite central question raises itself: What kind of sculptural work is able to engage and orientate the topo-phenomenologic-complex tensions, keeping at the same time, the pertinent field coherent and cohesive, and yet polarizing their mutations?

For us, the answer is quite clear: Monuments. Only monuments denote the ability to be, as Aldo Rossi said, the permanent elements of the “architettura della citá” and, simultaneously, to appear as poles of its facies, since, no matter what can be said, they constitute the highest and the most spread paradigms of sculptural and architectonic work, of a given period.

With this stance, eventually, polemic, it is possible, and at the same time it becomes meaningful, to integrate time and change in a phenomenological study that deals with public sculpture. However, to do it, implicates to review and even to revert some of the assertions that have been thought as acquired, according to the interpretation of the relationship between the idea of monumentality and the idea of modernity, since the incompatibility of both terms is generally accepted, namely, in recent historiography, through the authorized voice of the north-American art historiographer Rosalind Krauss.

In a short analysis of the issue, that incompatibility has its, in a way, official, origin in the text of the Chart of Athens , which according to functionalistic logic, in its 77th paragraph, asserted that “The keys of urbanism are in the four functions: Dwelling, work, recreation (at free time), circulate ”, discarding all the functions connoted with aims of symbolization, and confining monumental thematic to the discussion around the preservation of historical monuments, locking it up in the archaeological discourse of Patrimony, and rejecting the monument as a full right component of modern architecture, according to the old formula that, in 1948, would be spread by Walter Gropius, when he seriously sentenced that “The very idea of getting monumental expression by means of using aesthetical symbolic forms, as in the past, should be strange to the creative spirit of our time. Because modern man found out that there isn’t any eternal finality or truth”. (Gropius, W., 1948, p. 117)

In the mean time, it matters to point out that this formula was far from being consensual in the interior of the modern movement, and represented, in the end, an uncomfortable fracture that for some time had been latent between modern architecture theorists, since in 1943, Josep Lluis Sert, Sigfried Giedion and Fernand Léger had signed the manifesto Nine Points on Monumentality , where the demand for a new monumentality was made, in a contrapuntal form regarding the Chart of Athens , publicized in 1943, but with a previous redaction.

In that manifesto, one may clearly see that what is there meant by monuments, it’s not the same that prevailed in the 19th century. More than elements of a given historic-social narrative, monuments are seen as “human marks on the territory” and “the expression of man’s highest cultural needs”, being useful to enhance that, for the subscribers of this manifesto modern monuments to be created, should define themselves more by their formal and aesthetical qualities, than by the dimension or impact of its presence, although in order to do it, as the authors say, “Monumental architecture will be something more than strictly functional. It will have regained its lyrical value. In such monumental layouts, architecture and city planning could attain a new freedom and develop new creative possibilities, such as those that have begun to be felt in the last decades in the fields of painting, sculpture, music, and poetry

So we think that, instead of being incompatible with modernity, the idea of monumentality didn’t actually fade out, but stayed silently present, almost invisible, existing as some kind of a secret germen, at a  mere transcendental level, waiting, in the limb, its  opportunity to come out, and to be able to reincarnate the world, finding again its place.

Although we think that, in principle, there isn’t any incompatibility between monumentality and modernity, however one should recognize that this incorporation is not has its own troubles, as subscribers noticed, when they asserted that “Monuments are, therefore, only possible in periods in which a unifying consciousness and unifying culture exists. Periods, which exist for the moment, have been unable to create lasting monuments”.

Beyond the value of the previous assertion, although it is indeed an essential topic of discussion that we will not start here, it’s quite truth that a unified conscience and culture is something that really cannot be seen! One thing that dramatically claims for the need of being synthesized a new monumental theory. A theory that can display the idea of a monumentality engaged in the metamorphose of the (neo-)classic idea of monument, which have been, in practice, here and there experimented, in western countries, after World War II, and whose main feature, in our opinion, is that of being of “phenomenological extraction”, as I have already elsewhere sustained. (vide, Abreu, J.G., 2001, pp. 91-115)

Interesting to notice, is that according to Raymond Abellio’s methodology and the genetic-temporal complex we mean, the structure we are about to build, doesn’t look for an singular prototype of monument, but two, as we have seen. So, it is no longer needed an unified culture and consciousness, in order to create a theory that may deal with modern monuments.

Empirical studies show us, inclusive, that these new polarities exist, and that they have nothing to see with the rhetoric of classical commemorative monuments. As, from the eighties till now, little by little, in the country, a lot of monuments have been inaugurated whose semantic contents, places itself out of the intentional quadrature we had described, when we talked about the four intentional classes, signifying themselves now beyond remembrance, devotion, qualification or animation, as we meant before.

That’s what happens, for instance, with the case of the Monument to the Travelling Salesman, by Clara Menéres, implanted the 4th January 1991, in the Portuguese town of Guimarães (Fig. 2). Here, we cannot talk about remembrance, since it is no question of displaying the memory of any event or particular person, nor even the profession became suddenly extinct or about to disappear.

Fig. 2– Clara Menéres, 1992, Monumento ao Caixeiro Viajante, Granito e Bronze, Praceta do Viajante, Guimarães

Instead of remembrance, what we may find here intentionally present, it’s the social symbolization of a given professional category. Travelling Salesmen call the attention upon themselves, and upon the social relevance of their work. The initiative is of its own, as it was their Trade-union who organized the competition, showing the intention of keeping the Community alerted to their social-economic importance, by means of the installation of permanent sculpture in the public space, and the realization of the ceremony of its annual celebration, with the deposition of flowers, as we can see in the image.

As we easily might guess, Travelling Salesmen are not the unique professional category to erect monuments. Almost everyone does it, and it is quite interesting to notice the curious phenomenon of the erection of monuments to the most punctual and even derisive pretexts, if comparing it to the classical criteria for monumentality.

So, we’ve found the first pole of the paradigm of the new monumentality: the one that promotes differentiation, in this case a social-economic one. This first pole, we qualified it as Pole of social differentiation. Later on, we will talk about it in much more detail.

However, that kind of new monuments revealed by the field study is not the only one that doesn’t fit the four intentional classes’ quadrature. Another type of a much lesser diffusion appears here and there, as for instance, the Monument to the Tree, by Aureliano Aguiar, implanted, in 1999, in Rotunda do Lagar, at the entrance of Odemira (Fig. 3). As in the previous case, although visually connoted with the order of imageability, the strong meaning of the work don’t allows us to consider it as a mere plastic exercise, nor its presence restricts itself to the purpose of just an aesthetical qualification of the space where the roundabout is located, connoting itself, in the end, topologically and symbolically with all the southern Alentejo’s plain. Alentejo to which Odemira represents some kind of portal or entrance, to anyone travelling from Algarve, as that roundabout locates itself, precisely, in the South entrance of the city.

Fig. 3– Aureliano Aguiar, 1999, Sobreiro, ferro, Rotunda do Lagar, Odemira

Otherwise, as Sergi Valera says, public art works are catalysts of a social identity, by the means of building an “urban symbolic space”, that is, by the means of the creation of an “urban structure, understood as a social category, which identifies a social group linked with this environment, capable of symbolizing one or quite a few of the relevant dimensions to this category, and which permits individuals who make up the group perceive themselves as equals in as much as they identify themselves with that space and different from other groups on the basis of the space itself or the categorical dimensions symbolized by this.” (Valera, S., 1997, p. 78)

In this sense one cannot see this work as a mere plastic form, just aesthetically qualifying the urban space that surrounds it, in same the way minimalist site-specific sculpture usually does. Its intention is of a quite different kind. Different also from the previous case, because here the work does not pay any attention to any part of the social tissue, for we can say that we face now another kind of logic, that is precisely inverted versus the previous one, since in this kind of public sculptural works, it’s a given social tissue that, as a whole, recognizes itself in them, as these symbolically do function as catalysts for common identity, and that’s why we classified it as Pole of social integration.

In short, while in the first case the monument pays attention to a certain group specifying its differences inside a given social tissue, in the second the monument gathers the social tissue and the groups constitute them as a whole, beyond differences.

These two opposite monumental logics fit quite well the second stage of Raymond Abellio’s structural dialectical process, for in the first case we can notice the presence of the differentiation pole, acting as the tendency to root deep in the immanent (incarnation).

While in the second case, we can feel the presence of the integration pole, acting as the tendency to ascend high in the transcendent (assumption).

The ways this process is conceived and constituted, its genesis and its dialectics, in a word, its genetics, are capable of being historically analyzed, and even reclaim it, starting here the historical function of the Absolute Structure.

With the integration of the historical dimension in the phenomenologic study of public sculpture, offered by the definition of a new theory of the monument, the topo-phenomenologic quadrature that composes the analysis of locus, kern and eidos, is opened to the transformations and transmutations (Abellio would say transfigurations) whose gestation processes in cronos, by the means of the definition of this new complex we call genetic-temporal.

6. Model

Anchored in these formulations and expanded by trans-disciplinary guidance, we suppose that Art History can aspire to propose a phenomenologic classification model for public sculpture We call it phenomenologic, because the scope of such model is not to define typologies according to stylistic, formal, material or technical characteristics of the sculptural works, something that in the present domain of contemporaneity in which we live, by means of the explosion of individual poetics, techniques and plastic and conceptual languages, seems of quite problematic realization, and even of minor interest.

Besides that, Javier Maderuelo, one of the most outstanding scholars of public sculpture, analyzing the dominating tendencies of sculptural practice that intent to recover public space as a space for art, says that those tendencies can be distributed by six lines (Maderuelo, J., 2000, pp. 240-248): to recover the big scale; to recover the meaning of the works; to revise monumental form; to renounce to traditional monument; to concern with environmental quality; to concern with citizen participation, thus also rejecting any definition based on typological, stylistic or formal categories, and as we see preferring to distinguish instead intentional ones.

Once the purpose is to propose a model centred in the intentional distinctive character of the sculptural works, the operation becomes suddenly much easier and also much more useful, since intentional classification criteria are much more inclusive and universal than any other one, allowing to include not only contemporary time, but also other previous periods and even ulterior ones, because of the inclusion of the genetic-temporal complex.

First in some kind of experimental way, we begun to walk in that direction when we wrote our Master’s Dissertation, and later on we walked a little further in the same path when we presented our paper to the II International Congress of the Portuguese Association of Art Historians.

What we defended there, was that public sculpture, in a first stage, can be, as Raymond Abellio says, represented by a structural diagram, distinguishing and relating four classes, according to the intentional character each one manifest: rememorative celebration (remembrance of facts); religious celebration (devotional beliefs); architectonic animation (buidongs’ decor) and urban qualification (architectural decor). These classes, quite easy to attribute, are, in a second stage, polarized and, in a way, crowned, by two opposed instances, that are indeed the two new directions or complementary intentions for the prevailing monumentally and symbolization of present public space: the pole of monumental differentiation and the pole of social integration.

These two last instances represent the two complementary dimensions in which, according our point of view, the phenomeno­logy of contemporary monuments is all about: the “intentional tension” between social differentiation and social integration.

That is, as we see it, the ontological condition of the contemporary public sculpture, evidenced by the present monumental paradigm, and so these last two poles, should not be seen as permanent, but temporal, since their eidetic content is still, as Husserl would say, mundane.

The operation we need now to distil its phenomenologic synthesis, we must remark it, requires the presence and the insight of Transcendental Ego. Husserl called this operation phenomenologic reduction. Something that should be attained by means of some kind of rational depuration of the mind, as method to get rid of the worldly nature and thesis that keep conscience apart from its transcendental level, where an adequate knowledge may raise.

Without this face to face with the reflexive mind, until this “rendez-vous” of the conscience with itself, the Transcendental Ego will not be present and become operative in an adequate manner, being no doubt that the main purpose of the Absolute Structure is to promote that reflexion and to lead to that rendez-vous. Something that was meant by Abellio when he became ware that more than a senarian structure, one should call it a senarian-septenarian, since beside s the six polarities already described, it matters not to forget to mention a last singular and yet crucial pole: the centre of the Absolute Structure. Permanently occupied by Transcendental Consciousness – individual or interpersonal – the reflexion around the absolute structure’s centre represents the core of abellian gnoseology, for that meditation is in a last stance illuminative and transfigurative, according to the very essence of esoteric tradition.

So, in order to go on, we think that from the previous designations (pole of social differentiation and pole of social integration) should be removed the expression social, as it reflects not a transcendental level, but a mundane one.

Our proposal is to call the pole which promotes differentiation and occupies the inferior level of the model as Pole of Monumental Differentiation, and the other that promotes integration and occupies the superior level of the model as Pole of Monumental Integration , echoing the transcendental immanence of the monument’s ontological theory we have been trying to present.

In brief, the model we propose (Fig. 4) contains several levels of organization, operation and understanding. Within the first level, one may consider the equatorial plan of the structure where the four intentional classes remembrance, devotion, qualification and animation, deal with each other. At this level, the model offers the minimum conceptual basis that is needed to implement a static conventional like classification, whose classes were obtained by husserlian eidetic reduction method.

Fig. 4– Modelo

Remembrance is then the eidetic quality present in all Places of Memory, which is the first classificatory entity of the model. Next, devotional celebration is the eidetic quality present in all Places of Devotion. Being then urban qualification the eidetic quality present in all Elements of Urban Qualification, and architectonic animation the eidetic quality present in all Elements of Architectonic Animation.

Through a second level of organization temporality enters the model, and this one becomes an operative structure, being then necessary to notice and consider the contrary rotations that animate the senarian structure, since the model, as the pertinent field, is not static. As a matter of fact, the narrativity axis (formed by remembrance and devotion) “rotates”, metaphorically speaking, in an inverted “sense”, according to the one of the imageability axis, for while the first operates in the “sense” of fixing and diffusing narrative messages, the second operates in the “sense” of fixing and diffusing visual images. That’s why the first two are meant as Places, since they have the power to become autonomous from their contexts, as their “voice” can be heard loud and clear, e the seconds are meant as Elements, because they have no proper voice, and just convert the logic of each context into its own “visual language”.

Within a third level of organization, and just because there are inverted senses that operate in time, one should be able to understand the synthesis of successive monumental paradigms, to following and tracing its ontogenesis, as Abellio did within his Ontogenesis of the Civilizations.

We will not do it here, but we are quite ware that it is possible, as the synthesis of the classic monumental paradigm takes place because the tensions and frictions between remembrance and qualification had de-constructed the previous Baroque monumental paradigm, that swung between the celebration of the Monarch, as the gathering pole and the celebration of the mighty and privileged Lords as the differential pole.

With Enlightenment, this coherent complex is de-constructed, as in the gathering pole Reason becomes to be celebrated, and in the differential pole the Wise and the Distinguish who disseminate it over the world, according to a paradigm that lasts without bigger alterations, until the first decades of the 20th century, with the remaining intentional classes operating in a sustainable dialectical balance, since decorative and allegoric sculpture, of a neutral narrative content, kept its ornamental presence in gardens and palaces, (as it still does according to other aesthetic criteria), qualifying and animating ensembles and buildings, as in the mean while in the countries were Catholicism prevailed, the images of the Saints and of the Holy Mother, would still, even if in lesser number, decorate and animate temples and peregrination places, and in the cemetery more and more bust and statues were carved meant to perpetuate the memory of the dead.

It will be World War I the temporal complex that will provoke a radical change within the still prevailing classic monumental paradigm, for with the erection of the Monuments to the Great War Dead , a powerful conflict between remembrance and devotion breaks out, as Antoine Prost shows us, when he says that  “Les monuments aux morts sont ainsi devenus le lieu privilégié non d’une mémoire de la République, à l’instar des statues de celle-ci, mais d’un culte républicain, d’une religion civile, dont les particularités méritent d’être ramassés pour conclure. C’est d’abord un culte ouvert; il ne se déroule pas dans un espace clos, fermé, mais sur les place publiques, en un lieu qui a un centre, un pôle, mais qui n’appartient à personne, puisqu’il est à tous”. (Prost, Antoine, 1988, p. 221)

This short passage speaks for itself. The Monuments to the Great War Dead shows us the face of an intentional metamorphosis (Abellio would say a transfiguration), as the curious designation “religion civile” quite suitably expresses it, since as the author says, its characteristics were those of a laic cult, “qui n’a ni dieu ni prêtre. Ou plutôt le dieu, le prêtre et le croyant se confondent: au vrai, le citoyen s’y célèbre lui-même ” (Prost, Antoine, 1988, p. 221).

By reasons we cannot discuss here, we think that the intentional metamorphosis, which gave in the twenties its first steps, was aborted in the next decade (in our master’s dissertation we spoke of blockade ) by the propagation and consolidation of authoritarian regimes, as totalitarism denied to the citizens the power to constitute and mediate democratic and free forms of self-celebration.

So, by force, in Portugal, a huge arsenal of self-celebration is prompted, not having as centre the citi­zen, but the State, through an insidious mechanism of a political and ideological appropriation, mani­pula­tion and falsification of History, according to an intentional process that in her PhD thesis Marga­rida Acciaiuoli de Brito, defined as the “redeem of the Present by the restoration and celebration of the Past”.

In this intentional complex, sculpture will perform, in the Portuguese case, a strategic role for the pursuit of a program meant to popularize and to root the national-historicist narrativity, as Artur Portela Filho qualifies it, by the means of an habile policy of commissions ruled by the State (Estado Novo). A program for the spreading of the official ideology and aesthetic, whose logic until recent time could still be felt, inducing the modern sculptor João Cutileiro, to speak, in the year 1997, about the need to “democratize sculpture ”, by the time of the creation of 25  April Monument, in Lisbon.

With the triumph of democracy after World War II, were partially created favorable conditions for the synthesis of a new monumentality, whose testimonies can be seen in the international competition for the Monument to the Unknown Political Prisoner, organized by London’s ICA (Institute of Contemporary Arts), in 1951, and in the construction of Peace Park, in Hiroshima, where should be erected the Memorial to the Atomic Dead, commissioned to the Japanese north-American sculptor Isamu Nogushi, but as it happened with ICA’s competition, couldn’t be built.

In our opinion, the intentional complex needed for the creation of a new monumentality (Abellio would call this stage Conception ) appears to be synthesized, in transcendental plan, after World War II, but in the material plan it did not, maybe because it had not the institutional links and roots needed for his break-through (Abellio would call it Birth ).

In Portugal, this new intentional complex appears with the triumph of democracy, after the 25 April Revolution, but stayed suspended in the limb, until the formalization and constitution of Democratic Autarkic Power, as the instance of formal and institutional mediation within the citizenship sphere, by the subjection of Local Administration to the popular poll.

That’s the reason why the social and cultural screen is only prepared for receiving the new monumental paradigm, in Portugal, after the eighties, as in a certain way happens at an European level, with the implementation of the process of Regionalization and Political-Administrative Autonomy that both experiment France and Spain. A process in which the election of the first Autonomous Government of Catalonia and the first Democratic City Hall of Barcelona in 1979, are examples of great relevance, for the creation of an integrated, renewed and systematic public art intended policy that promoted the demand and the synthesis of new mediations and patterns of urban monumentality and symbolization.

At the same time, the German reunification and the implosion of Soviet Union which marked the term of Cold War and the end of the big political-ideological gap of the industrial societies, by other means created other favorable conditions for the liberation of the citizenship, as it is meant according Western patterns.

However Globalization with the geo-demographical fluxes and the political-religious crisis that complicate nowadays tasks and agendas, if it will or will not slow, suspend or contradict this at first sight the optimistic screen that was settled in order to disseminate a new democratic and multicultural monumentality, is one of the biggest incognita that the End of Modernity let us as its heritage, as we said in the beginning of these pages.

7. Final considerations

It matters to say that this model has been growing in time, and that he jumped out first from the contact with the very different sculptural works, and appeared to us as the unique form of comprehensive classification we were able to set up, without denying the very specificity of the phenomenon that sculptural work is all about.

We believe that this model can operate as a coherent whole, but we have to admit that in order to understand its logic, dialectic, functionality and semantic, much yet has to be done, namely in its ontological background.

According to that precisely point, we think its own ontology is locked inside the model itself, and in order to open it our meditation is still on its way, waiting and hoping its final result can be brought to light.

All we can say about it is we suppose that first of all one should open the senarian-septenarian understanding of the sculptural art work’s ontological background.

The hypothesis we’ve working in, is perhaps a quite premature one, and we feel that we are still very far from what should be a final step, for in our mind the ideas are not yet as stabilized as it happens when the hypotheses suddenly stop to vary, and a clear answer is heard.

However, perhaps we achieved something: some kind of senarian scheme that according to the figure, we interpret like this. First of all, the sculptural work is an object among other objects, with the particularity that it carries locked inside itself an important distinction: while common objects exhibit and reclaim “le faire”, sculptures, as art objects, exhibit and reclaim “la façon de faire”. So they become more than mere objects, they become as we put it our scheme amulets.

But this metamorphose of the object in an amulet, is not an intrinsic property of the thing, but an investiture of the conscious mind. So a first rotation of sense is needed in order to analyze the transcendental repercussion of the perception of amulet’s intentional sense.

Here we suppose the first transcendental inscription of the amulet in the mind should be an echo of its formal aspect, and then the face of the amulet appears as an ornament.

However, ornaments hide some kind of meaning. They are meant to mean something, because they possess the intentional background that is hidden in “la façon de faire” of the art work. So, the conscious mind recognizes or invents, in a word, intents, some kind of a meaning, and the ornamented amulet is seen as a symbol. Now there’s a second and final rotation of an inverted sense versus the first one, and the meaning of the symbol, returns to common objects, in order to make new sculptural objects.

That’s how we figure the application of the double contradiction abellian’s operative dialectical logic. However, in order to proceed, we cannot forget that these operations do not function in the void, and so we should consider, in the inferior hemisphere of the structure, the different scenarios – locus – where sculptural objects exist or can be seen, and in the superior part of the structure we should consider the pure configurations – eidos – that sculptural objects can be molded, cast or carved in.

In the centre of the structure we have the display of the intentional core of meanings – kern – that the sculptural dialectical creative process can generate, for in the first place when we consider the objectual level, we may suppose that we are talking about Conception, since the artifact is not yet, in fact, but only potentially, an art work, existing only immerged in a world of objects. Next, we may talk about Birth, because the art object emerges as a particular object surrounded by objects. Next we may talk about Baptism, as the transfigured object exists as a transcendental subject carrying its own meanings in a world still unmeant, immerging as a subject inside a world of objects. Finally, we may talk about Communion, as the symbolized object inseminates its own meanings back in the world, emerging as a subject on a world of subjects.

As we can see, the intentional layer seems to work properly in abellian terms. However, we still have many doubts concerning the attribution of the differential pole and the integrative pole. Is it really necessary that the integrative pole should be ruled by eidos, and the differential pole by locus? And in this structure, shouldn’t in some way appear chronos?

We don’t know for sure. And that’s why this process must be much more developed, tested and evaluated.

Porto, 10th December 2003

José Guilherme Abreu


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