Margaret Roberts Triangle & Circle 3 2016, a drawing installation in graphite on tape on the wall, wood on nails and the physical space in which it is located, at the Drawing Conversations Exhibition at the National Art School (NAS) in Sydney, opening Wednesday 28 September 2016. Photos: the artist. Thankyou to the visitor who kindly agreed to be photographed operating the work.

Triangle & Circle 3 is a summary (or documentation) of Triangle & Circle 1, developed a few months earlier during a NAS residency at the British School at Rome. It is a summary because it uses only one of the identical 6 outer triangles, with the two different circular cuts into them, that Francesco Borromini is said to have used to arrive at the pattern of the floor plan of his 1660 church, Sant'Ivo alla Sapienza (and that is shown more fully in Triangle & Circle 1). Unlike in this summary, Borromini used only one cut for each outer triangle of the plan, alternating these cuts in the triangles located around the hexagram to make the undulating circle that determines the entire shape of the church, but is most evident in the famous Sant'Ivo cornice.

The Triangle & Circle works come from an interest in how to document spatial artworks in ways that acknowledge the importance of the physical space any work occupies, and to do this through making it a partner in the work. Usually when an installation is documented in a photograph, that space is deleted, replaced by the virtual space of the image. (There are some exceptions, where the photograph is composed or collaged to acknowledge its physicality and location in reduced form, such as in much of the photographic documentation made by Gordon Matta-Clarke). The Triangle and Circle works are, like a photograph, greatly reduced versions of the building, Sant'Ivo alla Sapienza, but ones that acknowledge the physical space in which it is located. They acknowledge this space mainly by their invitations to visitors to physically interact with them by moving the wooden rulers, and thereby show that live space is an essential partner in the work.

This invitation is implied in the titles, which name the triangle made (in Triangle & Circle 3) in tape and pencil on the wall, but also name a circle which is not present. It is hoped that enterprising visitors will see this absence as an invitation to use the wooden rulers to make the circles themselves. In doing so, they show to themselves and to others around, that the space in which the works are located is an active partner in the work. This is shown by using the presence and energy of a live person to draw attention to the live space the works also occupy, emphasising what is already acknowledged in a more low key way in the works by the direction of the wooden rulers that hang down when at rest, because of gravity.

This acknowledgement is made because, while the location (of Triangle & Circle 3, in particular) is Sydney whereas the work it documents is in Rome, both places have physical space in common. While this incorporation of any physical space into the documentation is a reduction of the building's actual spatial character (the Sant'Ivo building is located in a particular part of the physical space of the world—as well as being much larger, made of different materials etc), reduction is the nature of documentation. The question being addressed in works such as the Triangle & Circle works is which parts of the work being documented should be selected to remain when its reduced, documentary form is being determined. In these documentary works of Sant'Ivo, I have included the component that is common to all buildings, its actual space. While this does not help in distinguishing it from all other buildings, other components that are unique to the building are retained, and the inclusion of actual space as a component is intended to distinguish it as an artwork (which it also is, as well as a building) from other artworks that are spatially autonomous. As a building and as an artwork, its most obvious component, the actual space it occupies and contains, usually gets overlooked because it is so taken for granted.

Being taken for granted is not in itself always a bad thing, but can become problematic when it causes problems through consequent neglect of something essential (such as the spacial environment that our bodies need to survive). That is related to another question (kindly raised by Charles Cooper) which is why the titles etc of the Triangle and Circle works do not acknowledge their source in Borromini's work. One answer is that I have not worked out a way to do that without also giving that source greater prominence in the work than the work's role as a gesture towards the revaluation of place. The social value given to place in modern times is quite hard to explain—I attempt that in Art and the Status of Place. Part of the reason it is hard to explain is because the revaluation of place requires a paradigm shift in people's minds (like the revaluation of devalued people, such as blacks and women in modern Western cultures) and is thus not very susceptible to reason. I have wondered if the bodily enactment of a new way of valuing place (such as Triangle & Circle works invite) may have more impact on paradigmatic change, as it may have more direct access to the unconscious. In any case, I don't think a reconsideration of the value of place could compete in most visitors' minds with the information that this work is a drawing of an extraordinary baroque building. So I have left this information about the source of the work for those interested enough to look at this website.


and at SNO in Marrickville 2017

and in The Drawing Exchange in Adelaide in 2017