Perceiving Sculpturally

How to approach the term sculpture? Define it as an oeuvre as in art history, transgress it as in Beuys’ »social sculpture,« or even involve movements and traces as in Land Art? Florian Goldmann, cooperation fellow in Humanities with the DFG Research Training Centre Visibility and Visualisation – Hybrid Forms of Pictorial Knowledge at University of Potsdam, tried to evoke a broader sense of understanding sculpture in this workshop with art history students from University of Stuttgart. Using the example of the Solitude boulevard, a forest isle cleared between Schloss Solitude and the Ludwigsburg castle, the students engaged with questions such as: What are the differences between a scientific measurement and individual approaches to mapping space? How can one seize movement and measure?

In 1764, a forest aisle was cleared between Solitude and the Ludwigsburg castle straight through what was up until that point tilled fields and forests. This architectural intervention into the landscape was meant to guarantee Duke Carl Eugen direct passage between the two castles. For citizens and farmers, the use or crossing of the 13.5 kilometer-long boulevard was a punishable offense despite the fact that it intersected a lot of the farmers’ properties. The boulevard redefined the space in-between and surrounding the castles. It was considered a symbol of the duke’s despotism. Later, in 1820, the boulevard functioned as a basis and baseline for land surveying and the creation of the first topographic map of the Duchy of Württemberg, which redefined tax regions and private land boundaries and in so doing brought with it extensive spatial changes. [1]

Just like the work of a sculptor, drawing up lines on the draft table – the task of modeling – always precedes formative administrative processes, such as determining borders or the path of streets. Virtually any human intervention in nature can be understood as sculptural in the classical sense of adding and reducing something to a substance.

For his work Partially Buried Woodshed (1970) at Kent State University, land artist Robert Smithson had debris placed onto the roof of a shed until its main beam broke. His intention was to accelerate the process of destruction, only stopping once the shed had visibly been reduced to ruins. It was then left to further disintegrate. The term entropy, which Smithson borrowed from the sciences, was fundamental to his artistic practice. He defined it as the irreversibility of the consistent erosion of nature, of which man is an integral part, rather than an interfering agent. Any primordial condition would be unrecoverable. The acceleration of the process of destruction which he demonstrated with the woodshed is an emblematic model of the man-made transformation of the earth. In Smithson’s view of landscape, the natural and the artificial are indistinguishably intertwined.

»The task was to find and interpret traces, to identify formal as well as causal rhythms and patterns. Every linear history contains thousands of narrative branches.« –Florian Goldmann

For the work 3 stoppages étalon (1913/14), Marcel Duchamp recreated a scientific experiment by dropping three strings from a height of one meter (that is, according to the Parisian international prototype meter) onto a canvas and fixing them in their respective position. As expected, it resulted in three different lengths, from which Duchamp produced three different measuring tapes. In a scientific experiment, repeatability either proves or disproves a previously made assumption. However, Duchamp concluded that this variation in results, i.e. the unpredictability of the strings’ length, was mere coincidence; each throw resulted in a unique result. Thus, the indeterminate result discredited the metric system as being arbitrary. [2]

As the Solitude boulevard extends behind the castle, it bends off at a seven degree angle. This subtle kink originally marked the transition from the representative symmetrical axis to the forest aisle into the asymmetrically designed Baroque garden and hunting grounds. Today, it is the starting point of a carefully forested wood. During the workshop, we set out in search of traces of the passage with the goal of remeasuring it. Just like Duchamp challenging the length of the meter, we wanted to figure out the linearity of the forest aisle as a construct and from that extrapolate its coincidences. We experienced the landscape as an interplay between human, natural, and geological history, inextricably interwoven. Is it possible to differentiate the remains of the Baroque garden, which are indicated by a map at the kink of the boulevard, from the forest growing on top of them? Do they allow for any conclusions about the geological origins of their components? The task was to find and interpret traces, to identify formal as well causal rhythms and patterns. Every linear history contains thousands of narrative branches.

Florian Goldmann: »The instructions were deliberately vague. The students were supposed to walk along the aisle that was cut through the forest during the planning of the garden with a heightened consciousness and record regularities and irregularities. In preparation we talked about two artworks: one by Marcel Duchamp, in which he contested the metric system and conventionalism in the sciences; the other by land artist Robert Smithson, who covered a wooden shelter with soil until it collapsed. This interference in landscape and architecture, the acceleration of ›ruin-becoming‹, can essentially be conceived as sculptural.

»Even today, when counting steps, walking along the length of something, we take measure by relating the dimensions of our bodies to the assessed space. With the introduction of the metric system the reference shifts from the body of the measurer to the body of the measured.« –Florian Goldmann

These two inputs might have caused confusion rather than giving a direction, which was not so bad after all. Part of the idea of the workshop was to understand movement in – as well as the measurement of – landscape as an intervention within landscape and a sculptural process. Photography and drawing were to be used as tools for taking measure.

In my work I am concerned with processes of modeling. The term ›model‹ derived from Latin modulus, the diminutive of modus, which is translated as ›measure‹. In ancient times, taking measure usually involved and referred to the human body in one way or another. Even today, when counting steps, walking along the length of something, we take measure by relating the dimensions of our bodies to the assessed space. With the introduction of the metric system the reference shifts from the body of the measurer to the body of the measured. Earth was compartmentalized, with the meter being a unit that apparently derived from its dimensions. However, it is an abstraction, that doesn’t take into account that the earth has no perfect geometrical form.«

Marthe Kretzschmar (Department of Art History, University of Stuttgart): »With you I have the feeling the world is a sculpture and a drawing system which meet at certain points. In this workshop, we tried to find expressions for that through photography, through drawing, through words. The problem of the materialization of this idea evidently functions for you as a filter. Human reasoning intersects with the world and its chaotic being, and something happens at this intersection, which you perceive. How can you express that? And where is the sculpture or the sculptural aspect there? On the one hand, in your specific interest, but on the other hand also in the universal questioning which you develop from it.«

FG: »In the end, by working with sculpture and by sculptural communication. My sculptures do not have a work character, but they are rather like a set-up of an experiment, which is not finished; rather like areas which shall invite to think ahead.«

Norbert Holzer (student at University of Stuttgart): »This is an attempt to walk the passage and take one picture every 50 meters. I wanted to change the zoom and depth of focus in a way that the size of what you see on the photo from the castle remains the same, while everything changes. There is a shift in angle at the beginning of the forest and originally at the beginning of the garden, which then becomes asymmetrical. If you look at the trees, you see the kink. This should also be visible in my illustration.«


Daria Chernyshenko (student at University of Stuttgart): »I started in the forest behind the garden. You see – at least I thought so – that all the pathways are straight and continue like the Solitude boulevard because it used to be a Baroque garden. But you recognize that the pathway is not straight anymore somewhere at the end. Instead, it deviates – although this is hard to see. As I was turning, I realized that the other pathway, which also appears straight, also curves to the right and therefore deviates from the line. Within the garden, diagonal lines dominate which are angled like an X to the boulevard. Here, everything is considered and planned.«


Mira Witte (coordination fellow at Akademie Schloss Solitude): »I quickly bid farewell to the lines and the axis. Of course, I moved along the lines, but I looked more into the wood and searched for traces. For me different guiding systems were important: technical signs; forestry evidence which might point to the felling of a tree; road signs; trails; signs for sites or artworks. This method holds many possibilities for a narrative development of each of the markers.«


Marthe Kretzschmar: »The problem was whether or not I should draw and how. In addition to this, there was the choice of motif. Should I collect or capture something? What will I choose? What section? What moment best represents the intention of my personal approach? I tried to understand this from the perspective of sculpture, rather than as a two-dimensional image which is being presented to us. The given axes allow nature to be a chart, resulting in beautiful motifs. It becomes problematic, when I can just quickly take a photograph instead. How do I visualize my approach to a specific motif if I do not want to take a photograph? This was an attempt at drawing something: the bridge close to the highway, then my view in two directions, towards and away from the castle. Where is the fix point? The sketch shows what I’m perceiving right at this very point in time.

My choice was to make a plan view, like the plan of the castle – a scheme that is completed by terms such as ›deviate, axis, movement, directions.‹ Apart from that, I experienced the motif from movement and observed that you find a kind of intimacy with the kink in the axis. The area around the castle is oriented around visual checks. As soon as you move into the forest area, you are left alone. But how do I visualize what I feel?«


All illustrations and photographs were created and chosen during the workshop at Akademie Schloss Solitude. The statements are taken from the presentation and discussion.


  1. Jump Up Bernhard Klar, Erika Porten: »Die Solitudeallee in Weilimdorf, ein Kulturdenkmal der Landvermessung von 1820,« in: Weilimdorfer Heimatblatt, no. 27, May 2007, p. 2.
  2. Jump Up Dieter Mersch: Epistemologien des Ästhetischen. Zürich 2015, pp. 149-150.