Solar System & Rest Rooms

Writings and Interviews, 1965-2007

Mel Bochner

Serial Art, p.40

If it can be safely assumed that all things are equal, separate and unrelated, we are obliged to concede that they (things) can be named and described but never defined to explained. If, furthermore, we bracket-out all questions which, due to the nature of language, are undiscussible (such as why did this or that come to exist or what does it mean) it will then be possible to say that the entire being of an object, in this case an art object, is in its appearance. Things being whatever it is they happen to be, all we can know about them is derived directly from how they appear. 

Serial or systematic thinking has generally been considered the antithesis of artistic thinking. Systems are characterised by regularity, thoroughness, and repetition in execution. They are methodical. It is their consistency and continuity of application that characterises them. Individual parts of a system are not in themselves important but are relevant only in how they are used in the enclosed logic go the whole series. 

An Interview with Elayne Varian

EV: Let’s talk about your measurement works. What is the idea behind them?

MB: It seems to me that our perception of things is determined by the ideas that we have about them. Its a case of a certain mental space that one has for both seeing and thinking. We like to feel that they are separate  but they are not – they overlap. They overlap in our conception of things and consequently, our experience of them. 

EV: Why did you choose to work with brown paper?

MB: The brown paper began as just a convenience, something that was always around the studio. It came in sizes, three feet by four feet, which are the standard measurements of most building materials. I slowly came to realise that these measurements are so deeply embedded in our experience that they regulate our perception, yet remain completely invisible. 

Measurement Works, 48″ Standards, 1969

Proposition and Process: A Theory of Sculpture (1968 – 1973) at Peter Freeman Gallery, 10 May – 12 July 2013, New York.

Number constitutes a mental class of objects. Numbers do not need concrete entities in order to exist. In Latin the word for counting is “calculus”, which translates, literally, as stone. By juxtaposing the numbers with the stones A Theory of Sculpture forces a confrontation between matter (“raw” material) and mind (categories of thought).
Cardinal vs Ordinal 5, 1970, Stones and Chalk on floor.PF2577_email1.jpg
Five by Four, 1972, Stones and Chalk on Floor. PF2583_email1.jpg
Measurement Plants, 1969, Three live plants and vinyl on wall. 02_Bochner_email1.jpg

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