Not all those who wander are lost
2018 | Royal Botanical Garden of Madrid, organized by Travesía Cuatro | Madrid, SP

The function of a column is to provide constructive support; this enables buildings to maintain their structure; nowadays there are several columns which can be found in suburban pre-fabricated houses, which are made out of plastic or drywall, they don’t perform a utilitarian function. They are just decorative and hollow. They deliver a simple message: “luxury” and “permanence”. In ancient times various cultures constructed totems with spiritual and religious purposes. The accumulation of symbols as concrete objects arranged in vertical configurations. This meant that everything should “ascend”, everything should learn to fly. Human beings should follow these patterns and behave in a certain manner. In his seminal text Totem und Tabu, Freud explains these objects as material reminders and warnings, they are also inhabited by immaterial beings, which implies an obvious contradiction for the Western mind. Totems were destroyed or cloistered into the exhibition rooms of museums; columns were transformed into pedestals and plinths. Paradoxically these classic architectural elements took distance from the building itself and became a sort of transition ground between the sculptural object and the architectural space.

Constantin Brancusi was one of the first artists who merged the sculpture with its pedestal. Within his sculptures we can find an unprecedented material empathy, each material becomes a concrete message, and they accumulate in vertical dispositions; Brancusi re-awakens the ascending spiritual order of ancient times. With his Endless Column at Târgu Jiu, Romania, he materialized the idea of axis mundi. A not so well-known project by Brancusi was to recreate the Endless Column as a 400-meter-tall skyscraper in Chicago right beside the shore of Lake Michigan. An endless habitable column rising to the sky and being reflected infinitely to the depths of the water. Brancusi also proposed the construction of a temple in Indore, India, with the same shape of the Endless Column. If these proposals would have been constructed, this would have given shape to a modular method of connecting Heaven and Earth.

All of these intuitions are present in this exhibition by Jose Dávila, in which an accumulative glyptotheque is deployed within the Villanueva Pavilion at the Royal Botanical Garden of Madrid. This installation synthesizes the recurrent elements present in sculptural language throughout the history of Western art. Just as William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin developed and used the cut-up technique in order to create new writings with cropped and rearranged texts. Dávila employs a similar method to create these vertical compositions that merge the use of organic and industrial materials; minimalist and classic elements; found objects and construction materials. With a radical poetic freedom enabled by technical knowledge, these columns-totems-monuments condense the aspirations that have infused sculptural practice throughout the centuries.