Zabriskie Point (2013, unrealized)

Sandra Peters

Zabriskie Point is an exhibition project in which sixty-six rubber sculptures are to be placed in an interior space and/or an exterior one. Viewers stand within the installation, which extends like a field around them.

Each of the sixty-six sculptures comprises two elements. The individual elements consist of the eleven possible variations of an unfolded cube. They are combined into sixty-six pairs. The number of pairs is based on the fact that each of the eleven elements can be combined with any other, plus the eleven pairs in which an element forms a pair with itself. The size of the rubber sculptures varies according to the space available for the installation. Another part of Zabriskie Point is a still from the eponymous 1970 film by Michelangelo Antonioni, which shows couples lying half-dressed on the ground in the desert. It is a black-and-white “found image” that was scanned and then printed on newsprint. The paper is light-sensitive and will change color in the foreseeable future.

I integrated the film still into the work as a kind of counterpoint: geometric forms consisting entirely of right angles are usually considered “cool,” sober, even sterile. But the fact that a variety of such forms come into contact and are adjoined at different points suggests an experience of intimacy. This impression is reinforced by the still from the movie.

During a stay in Los Angeles in 2012, I took two brief trips to Joshua Tree National Park in California’s High Desert. Although I traveled to the desert only for a couple of days each time, the experience left a lasting impression. There, I experienced an extraordinary sense of freedom and at the same time profound calm, outside the capitalist structure that continually surrounds us and of which we are normally a part. I liked the heat and the utterly simple architecture in the expansive landscape. Whenever I tell people about my journey into the desert, I characterize it as magic! I always receive the casual reply: “Yes, I know.” It seems quite normal to think of the desert as magic. I wanted to find out for myself what exactly was so special about the experience. I went in search of materials that described it. Among other things, I came upon the films of Michelangelo Antonioni, all of which I watched. During my research, I also came upon a book, Reyner Banham’s Scenes in America Deserta (1982). Both perspectives, that of Antonioni and that of Banham, made it clear to me that as a space, the desert does not lie outside culturally inscribed experience. On the contrary: precisely because there are few or at any rate minimal external signs of culture in the desert, people who travel there find themselves thrown back on themselves, but in a way that causes them to become keenly aware of the degree to which they are inscribed by cultural experience. Because they encounter no external markers of culture to which they must react, they are able to reflect without constraint on their relationship to culture as a whole, and to reorient themselves. Art, of course, is a part of culture and has the character of a cultural sign, but I nonetheless believe that art offers beholders the possibility of reflecting on and reorienting their relationship to culture as a whole. This connects art with the experience of the desert. In Zabriskie Point, I want to present this connection as such in a work of art. But this connection is no mere analogy. In my art, I have always positioned things in parallel in the awareness that they do not per se form parallels: natural and artistic forms, architectural and sculptural elements, sculptural and musical structures, references to Rudolph Schindler and to Sol LeWitt, and, in Zabriskie Point, a sculptural ensemble and a still from Antonioni’s film. This parallel configuration highlights the boundaries that normally exist in our thought; here, things that belong to different categories are positioned parallel to one another so that the parallel configuration takes the form of a transgression of boundaries, and this makes it possible to bring things and thought into flux, opening up new alignments and currents. If we position society and the desert parallel to one another conceptually—first, a space that is densely packed with signs of culture; second, one wholly devoid of such signs—then a space is opened up that initiates and makes conceivable a dynamic of reorientation.

Gilles Deleuze made a remark about the films of Jean-Luc Godard that can illuminate this. He explained that the decisive thing is Godard’s handling of the “and,” which he converts into an actively operating “and.” In my interpretation, this means the conjunction “and” is a parallel configuration of that which is not parallel per se, but which can nonetheless be joined through a parallel configuration in such a way that boundaries are transgressed and a new dynamic is generated in thought and perception. In my art, I am concerned with effecting and marking such transgressions of boundaries, and in this way, with highlighting, generating, and occupying the interstices that this makes possible.

PER/TRANS: Performing the Cube, Transforming the Cube. Works by Sandra Peters, 1998–2017

Vienna: VfmK Verlag für moderne Kunst


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