Margaret Roberts #8 2016 (wood-fire ash and found wall) ArticulateUpstairs 497 Parramatta Road Leichhardt NSW 2040. Opening 6-8pm Friday 19 February 2016. Open 20 Feb - 6 March 11am - 5pm. Artist's talk 1pm Sunday 6 March.

Photo: Corey Rankin


#8 is the eighth reconstruction of Katarzyna Kobro's Spatial Composition 2 of 1928. I am remaking Katarzyna's work partly to show that artists have been working for the revaluation of place for many decades (1). Katarzyna was one of the early constructivist artists who in effect worked for the revaluation of place by constructing their artwork to give a signiicant role to place, thereby creating models that had the potential to infect broader social behaviour. In retrospect I want to aknowledge their insight into the problematic nature of the devaluation of place that their work suggests they they saw well before its consequence in climate change became widely known, as it is today. As well as developing the work, she also wrote about her intentions, including the importance of constructing connections between artwork and the actual space of its location, saying:

Sculpture is a part of the space in which it is located. [...] Sculpture enters space and space enters the sculpture. The spatiality of its construction, the connection between sculpture and space, force sculpture to reveal the sincere truth of its existence. That is why there should be no random shapes in sculpture. There should be only those shapes that position it towards space by connecting with it. ( Katarzyna Kobro Europa (2) 1929: translated from Polish and quoted by Malgorzata Kitowska-Lysiak 2004 in

The 8th reconstruction of Spatial Composition 2 is an enlarged drawing of the sculpture's three parts on the existing wall of ArticulateUpstairs. All 8 reconstructions of Katarzyna's work are made incomplete, to make more obvious the actual tiime as well as actual space in which they are located. (Most of) the first seven were constructed for viewers to physically re-arrange the work to complete it. #5 is constructed so that visitors can separate its two parts to see the drawing more clearly. In #8 viewers could rearrange the shapes in their minds.

#8 is drawn in ash, as in part a memorial for the reduction in inhabitability of the earth because of the likelihood that more of it will be burned in fires as climate change progresses. In particular the ash is a memorial for the the World Heritage-listed ancient Gondwana ecosystem in Tasmania, much of which was burned to ash following unusually dry weather and electric storms in January 2016, each of which scientists attribute to the progress of climate change. Read more about this tragedy here. The ash used in #8 was brought from the Blue Mountains by Noelene Lucas shortly after their 2014 fires.

Katarzyna Kobro, Spatial Composition 2, 1928, black, white and grey-painted steel, 50cm x 50cm x 50cm, Muzeum Sztuki, Lódz, Poland. image source:

Seven other reconstructions of Katarzyna Kobro's 1928 Spatial Composition 2 were made in 2015, three of which were installed in Articulate project space's FERAL (#1, #2, #3), one in Airspace's Openings (#4) and five in the International Biennale of Non-Objective Art in Pont de Claix  (#1, #4, #5, #6 and #7). These reconstructions are:
#1: 40cm square and in black and white 3M tape, plywood and found space, particularly its gravity and the right angle where the wall and floor join, as well as  visitors' willingness to place the plywood against the wall.
#2: 250cm square, in string, painted mdf, the found form of the building and visitors' willingness to hold the painted mdf in place.
#3: 120cm square, in black and white painted mdf, silver and white contact-sheet, found form of the building and visitors willingness to place/hold the mdf against the wall.
#4: 180cm square in black, white and grey fabric and found space, particularly visitors' willingness to occupy and locate the 3 parts in relation to each other.
#5: 10cm square in perspex and black, white and grey texta.
#6: 30cm square in hoop-pine plywood and found space, particularly its gravity, the flat floors of most buildings and visitors' willingness to remove the ply shapes from the wall and hold them together on the floor.
#7: 120cm square in black tape and forms commonly found in buildings, particularly walls and floors that include corners joining two walls, and corners joining walls and floor.
#9: 75cm square in tulle x 2, and 100cm square in tulle, and right-angled forms found in buildings.

(1) This has been overlooked partly because of the view that 'place' or 'site' was understood as necessarily much smaller or more 'specific' than the whole planet, so that artworks 'sited' in the actual space of a location are not always recognised by artwriters as 'site-specific'. (Eg see Douglas Crimp 'Redefining Site Specificity' in On the Museum's Ruins MIT 1993 p 154.) Works sited in the actual space raher than specific locations are thus sometimes seen as a naive or apolitical 'formalism' rather than, in some cases at least, being based on a perception or understanding that the devaluation of place is problematic. It is easier to see this retrospectively from the 21st century as we progess into its consequences in climate change, but I want to acknowledge the insight of those artists who saw the devaluation of place as problematic many decades earlier. I attempt to address the question of how artwriting could approach this problem in 'Models of Site-Related Art Practice' in the International Journal of the Arts in Society, Vol 4, Issue 3, pp.215-222.