Enigma and the Spatial

Author:  Aurora Noreña
Title:  Enigma and the Spatial
Publication:  De 3 en 3 Javier Marín (Milán)
Project / Work:  De 3 en 3 Exhibition
Published by: Terreno Baldío Arte

Enigma and the Spatial

Aurora Noreña


Beyond the notoriety of its volumes, the sculptural installation completed by Javier Marín during the summer 2008 in Pietrasanta (Lucca, Italy) claims relevance because of its overall conceptualization of the assembly as a spatial problem and the power of significance that this implies.


For the first time, although perceived and developing from its earliest attempts to make his human masses interact with the exhibition space (Sculptures, Espace Pierre Cardin, Paris. 2000-2001) and his scaffolding with suspended bodies (Javier Marín. Escultura. Plaza Juárez and Ex Templo de Corpus Christi, Mexico City. 2004-2005), the artistic value of its works is not dominantly deposited in the sculptural objects but in the rest, in the negative space that unfolds around them and in the series of relations generated between the spectator, the social context, the physical layout of the place and the sculptures.


Very much in line with the discourses that currently perform both sculpture and architecture in the urban environment, its location is in the breaking point and tension between the logics of the monument and the anti-monument.


While monuments and traditional sculpture concepts planted in public ways ignore the social context in which they are located, and have a reduced capacity to signify in the present, the settings conceived into the logic of anti-monument search for the indissolubility between the work and the context in which they are inserted. They promote the active participation of its audience to bring experiences and challenges from the present-
Even though the Mexican artist uses large scale and grandiloquence, he attains to displace the gravity centre of his public intervention towards a new sculptural identity. The use of sculptures as constructive elements of space and the rarefaction and ambiguity of his narrative are the two strategies that Marin uses to achieve it.
To transmute the sculptures into constructive elements, the horse riders are used as pillars and the enormous heads are turned into cavities.


While the elongated bases that support each of the legs of the horses are converted into columns that configure the walkable space, the cavities formed by the hollows in the heads and their apparent technical solution (i.e. the visibility of the parts and the elements of the assembly process) generate new interior spaces from which –even if it’s not always possible to enter them– is conceivable another position in the plaza.
The heads and the horse riders are refined and expressive volumes that we read from what they connote, but embedded in the public square they are also, or maybe before anything else, spatial milestones that invite the spectators to shape the work in their own way, but from certain guidelines.
The way in which the elements make a spatial marking impact in what the whole transmits. It makes clear that each one of the pieces planted on the plaza must be where it is and not anywhere else, not even by a centimetre. The title “Three by three” reinforces that sense. It is evident that the numerical relationship, the distance and the setting of each element are tied to a global conception of space.


The positioning traces a clear longitudinal axis from the entrance to the mountains: from the entrance to the temple of Saint Agustin, since the last horse rider stops in front of its doorway.
The design of the whole installation as a procession towards the temple edifies some sort of virtual path that remit us, even if tangentially, to the open spaces of the pre-Hispanic architecture in Mesoamerica.
In Teotihuacan, through its majestic longitudinal axis –the Road of the Death –, we get to the far north, to the Temple of the Sun, sheltered by mountains. This city, called by the Aztec mythology “the birthplace of gods”, was a religious Mecca and its main road a transit of processions.


And as in Tula, his series of unities column-warrior build the space. His horse riders in the duomo square are columns –with beautiful capitals– that trace a direction and a passage.
This reading of Marin’s work in Pierasanta allow us to understand it as a cultural crossroad because, even if the spatial concept and its placement can be linked to its roots it is also evident that it fits with the socio-cultural context where it is inserted (hence its formal complementarities and its links with memory and the urban structure of the place, as I mentioned in regard to the via Francigena in the book published for the Pietrasanta opening).
The second resource that the Mexican sculptor uses to move towards a new conception of sculpture in the public sphere is the nature of his narrative.
As Mario Perinola mentions, the articulation of the work around an enigma is a condition sine qua non of contemporary art that consists in: “(…) the questioning tension it raises.”


The retinue of knights leaving behind three colossal heads clearly poses questions such as: ¿What is happening? ¿What are these riders doing here and what are these vestiges?
Something transcends what we see in our endeavour to find an answer. Something beats momentarily but its definition eludes us: we decline an absolute certainty. That is an enigma.
According to the same author, the enigma is not a riddle but what “(…) has the capacity to explain itself simultaneously in multiple records with equally valid senses and it opens a suspended space in-between that is not destined to be fulfilled”.


And that is how “Three by three” unfolded in the central esplanade of Pietrasanta.
In the streets, unlike what happens in museums and galleries, the work confronts both the accustomed and the involuntary spectator, and therefore the residents and the seasonal vacationers of the Tuscan coast, each in their own way, complete the work with their interpretations without configuring it definitely, since “in the collective there is nothing essentially and rationally unique and common”.


The contemporary enigma, that always requires an active spectator or thinker, recurs to the oxymoron to be built. This rhetoric figure, consisting in harmonizing two opposite concepts and express it to create a third one, is employed in the visual to give birth to this instant of comprehension-incomprehension.
“Three by three” creates slots of ambiguity from articulating in his narrative a harmony between opposites. The vanquished victory and the convulse serenity are legible sensations in its space of pilgrimage entrusted to detonate multiple processes of appropriation and consumption of the work.



Amid exaltation and temperance the colossal reduces itself to human scale to seed a new enigma ready to the playful game of art, reinforcing the words of Jean Francois Lyotard, who claimed that “the visual is more than the visible.”

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