1.1 The Intuition of a New Function


In 2007, I was working on an idea for a public sculpture, I was fascinated by metallurgy and the long history of its masters. However, observing modern monuments in urban areas, I found them outdated and uninteresting in their inert occupation of public space, while neglecting to involve the inhabitants in any dedicated activity. I imagined a public artwork that would perform a function - a practical and truly valuable one - connecting the sculpture and its physical body with the life and actions of the inhabitants. I was intrigued by the consonance of monumentality and functionality, two aspects merging more often in architecture than in contemporary art. I found a lot of compelling associations as soon as a given function would become monumental and public. [3]


Observing the appearances of public sculptures and how they are constructed and installed in urban space, a structure able to accomplish a grand action seemed the obvious direction to take. A moving sculpture engineered like an automaton, a giant machine, a windmill. Utilizing the hollow space encircled inside the sculpture for storing or recovering something seemed a sensible path towards functionality. Nevertheless, the idea to store different articles inside a monument, thus transforming it into a dispenser of products - or in the best-case into a time capsule - seemed quite tedious and archaic.


In my search for conceptual and material content for the monument, I started to draw sketches of imaginary sculpture-containers or sculpture-actions, public units that would interact significantly with the local environment in a cyclical way. In the beginning I was associating their movement to wind and air (Calder), while their ultimate practical function, their accomplishment, remained unclear.

I continued to work by giving priority to form and materials. By imagining shapes born of bronze, I expected to find a specific function emerging. I was especially focused on examining different kind of needs associated to public domain and commons, and such thoughts seemed appropriate in an ambitious Europe preparing to withstand its first global economic crisis (2007-2008).


Through my circumstances as a relatively privileged European citizen I can easily access and directly involve the knowledge of my ancestors in my process. As I was searching for answers to my dilemma, I had a conversation with my father, a retired engineer, who was helping me understand the potential complications in combining bronze and other metals into a moving structure. During our long walks on his agricultural field, he told me with simplicity how amazed he was by the incredible assortment of thyme he found around his house, its tiny flowers shining among the stones, its persistent perfume and robust taste. He had discovered that it was an ancient variety used in Roman cuisine. “You can preserve thyme and other plants inside your sculpture, food is our most precious heritage”, he suggested. This discourse reminded me also of my grandmother Tina, who was constantly picking sticks, leafs and seeds, and inserting them in vases, glasses, cracks on walls, public soil. She was consciously and successfully moving plants onto new habitats. I connected my action with her and with her fluid perception of the vegetal world. My innocent early experiments with seeds placed into tree trunks, started to reappear in my memory in a new light. An unforeseen association started to become clear. The heart of the sculpture-container would preserve the living plant seeds, and the sculpture-action would share them. An ark for seeds. [4]



Experiment #1: copper coils inserted into pakuri.

Artist sketchbook, graphite on paper, 2008.