Margaret Roberts, Trial of Sophie's Circles, cardboard, tape, location, energy of visitors, ArticulateUpstairs, 28-29 January 2017.

Trial of Sophie's Circles is a trial for Sophie's Circles, a work that Melissa Staiger is planning to make for me in New York as part of Correspondence of Imaginary Places, in exchange for my installation of Melissa's work in Bird's Hut in April 6-9 2017 as part of the Cementa17 festival in Kandos, NSW. Documentation of these and the other 10 works in Correspondence of Imaginary Places will be shown in Cuchifritos Gallery in New York in May-June 2017, and in ArticulateUpstairs in Sydney at the same time (opening Friday 26 May 2017).

Sophie's Circles aims to treat Sophie Taeuber's 1934 gouache painting, Moving Circles (shown below), as a long-distance performance in which its 24 circles are understood as in pause-mode (for 83 years so far), waiting, like the Agave 'century plants', to begin to actually move , and thus take on the actual movement identified in Sophie's title. It aims to facilitates this transformation by providing 24 circles, enlarged if necessary and hopefully of the same colours as in the painting, and inviting people to physically move them around a space that has the same proportion in relation to the whole painting as the circles have.These circles could be in a range of forms such as dinner plates, for example. In Trial of Sophie's Circles, the circles are in cardboard enlarged 39 times to make them about human body-size.

This process could be understood as enabling Sophie's circles to transition from virtual to actual space—a little like A. Square's dimensional journey from Flatland into Spaceland (and also into Lineland and Pointland) (1). However I decided it is more like a long performance than dimensional travel because the paint and paper of Sophie's painting already have depth (a third dimension, despite their Flatland-like thinness) and do little to create the 'illusory' space normally thought of as making an artwork 'two dimensional'. This might be expected as the artists' groups that Sophie worked with after 1930 (Cercle et Carré and Abstraction-Création) emphasised the avoidance of representation (2). Thus the transition from stillness on the paper into movement on a different ground can be best understood as all happening in the same continuous Spaceland that our bodies inhabit along with Sophie's painted circles.

Sophie's Circles is also intended to create a continuity with and acknowledgement of the artists working a century ago to develop arforms and art practices that could contribute to the revaluation of place (thuogh they may have used different language), well before the disasterous consequences of this devaluation in climate change was generally acknowledged. It also experiments with ways of including the relationship with actual space that is such an important part of their work by preventing its actual space (the 'space' of Spaceland) from being subsumed into the virtual space of photographic documentation (our own variation of Lineland). It is also intended to make a long performance that engages with the work of artists who have come before, and whose 'shoulders we stand on', etc. Moving Circles 1934 also invites this continuity, being a title that suggests that movement must be about to happen, or just finished happening. I understand Sophie's incorporation of time into her work via titling as a demonstration that her circles occupy the actual space of Spaceland, not the illusory space of visual representation.

Margaret Roberts, January 2017



Sophie Taeuber-Arp Moving Circles 1934 Gouache, 26 x 35 cm, Schmidt/Weber 1934/9, Fondazione Marguerite Arp, Locarno


(1) as in Edwin A. Abbott Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions 1884. 
(2) Astrid von Asten 'Colour and Form' in Movement and Balance Kerber2010 p 81