9 Fingers of Malakoff (2010)
work was commisoned by Pavilion Projects. The following is an excerpt
from the press text I wrote which sets up the initial ideas for the
Enroute from Paris to the Art Centre of Malakoff I saw and thought about many things.
I was impressed with the garden within which the Art Centre is built.
The architecture of this public space was inviting and private, its
hospitality signaled by a series of benches flanking a tear shaped
pond. Within the pond are nine fingers of pink marble that survey the
park from the shallow water. These nine forms organized what I had been
thinking about into a proposal: units of sculpture producing units of
thought. Their existence offered a structure in which to place
arguments about Anthropic measurement, Auguste Rodin, how something
exists when out of site, and the metaphor of a sleeping giant embodying
This text I’ve written, this minor
narrative, is presented as an irrelevant photocopied handout having
been stored within a discrete and dusty piece of storage architecture,
a wooden shack on the edge of the garden property. A degree of
choreography is suggested by the placement of this shack: visitors
enter the garden of the art centre, see the fountain with the marble
fingers, travel to the rear of the property (either by accident or
purposefully), discover the text, and re-enter the garden under the
auspices of a suggestive theme. A theme, whose logic, while nestled
deep beneath the ground, emerges into daylight as The Nine Fingers of
The Nine Fingers of Malakoff
By Zin Taylor
begin, I will state the following as sometimes being true: things I
observe above the ground are the result of a logic hidden below the
This narrative is set within the French village of
Malakoff, during a June afternoon, on a Sunday, in the year 2010.
Departing Paris I arrived in Malakoff by Metro Subway. The station of
Varenne can be found along this route, the stop garishly advertising
access to the Musée Rodin; indicated monumentally by copies of the
artist’s sculpture arranged upon the Metro platform. I will visit this
Malakoff is a Parisian suburb 4.5 kilometers from the
centre of Paris. In this village there is an art centre, La Maison des
arts de Malakoff. The building is located within a sheltered garden
that is accessible to visitors. Within this garden is a reflecting
pool. The shape of the pool is a large teardrop, intersected from the
front by a lazy circle that refuses to close; a geometric collision
that houses a peculiar series of forms. At the rear of this pool are
nine marble fingers, rectangularly cut, and placed within a diagonal
grid of three by three. Each finger is made of two identically
proportioned segments measuring180 cm tall, with four equal sides of 60
cm each. Green lichen tops each segment, a photosynthetic fade
recording each form’s presence in this location. At the rear of the
pool is a hatch, a suggestive portal indicating an underground habitat
hidden from sight.
As a visitor I cannot enter this portal.
the hatch I descend beneath the pool. The two segments of marble above
the ground are re-confirmed by a third segment below. A complete
finger, a digit, one of nine, is presented.
Marble in its
natural state presents a visual similarity to a Reservoir of
Conversation. Watching the blend and fade of the material I imagine a
liquid pool of pink and white communicating through color and tone as
it flows underneath a layer of rock. Evolving through time, a
series of fluid relationships embedded beneath the surface solidify
when met by the air. The process of mining extracts sections of this
evolved conversation for use elsewhere. Separated into units of value
according to an external economy, the once fluid subject of the
marble’s form is edited into objects akin to obscure gestural
statements. Flooring, counter tops, rolling pins, and public sculpture
are examples of marble’s economy of use.
The nine marble fingers
at Malakoff are from a related quarry. While existing individually
these forms reference a collaborative origin through striations of pink
and white. Similar to a mythological Hydra, the individual lengths
share a common origin while acting of independent accord. Agreement and
collaboration met with obtuse discord, collectively observed across the
colored veins of this material. The third segment of this marble digit
projects the origin of a hand. A nine fingered giant buried deep within
this Parisian suburb.
Nestled in the palm, I look upon these
nine fingers. Three identical units, four sides of 60 centimeters in
width and 180 centimeters tall, create a form I now think of as a
digit: a unit of measurement derived from an organic reference.
time communities have introduced units of measurement to accurately
record value. Communal standardization of weight, length, and time
ensured abstract representation moved from an individual’s logic
towards collective agreement. Buildings could be erected through
divisions of labor, goods traded accurately, and monetary value
preserved and controlled once standards for value were implemented.
rules of measurement originating in the Indus Valley dating from the
4th and 3rd millennia BC develop standardized measurements within the
body and the environment. Time was recorded using the sun, moon, and
stars. Lengths were measured using the forearm, hand and finger.
Measurements correlating to the finger register as 1 3/8 inches, or
3.4925 centimeters. Residents of the Indus Valley found the measurement
of 1 3/8” to be incrementally distributed over the human body. A
finger’s segment represented an Inch, then referred to as an Angula. A
unit of measure 24 Angula’s (33 inches long) is called a Hasta, Kishku
or Muzam. Calculated weight was controlled using elements from the
environment. The carob seed was popularity used because of its
consistent weight and size, its “unitness”. The measurement of the
carob evolved into that of the carat. The carat is now used exclusively
to calculate weight for gemstones and pearls.
emerged through time to introduce differing standards for measurement.
The larger and more influential a ruling nation was, the more
widespread that system of measurement was used. New rules of
measurement were adopted echoing the influence of an individual ruler.
The language of a daily economy was determined by this individual’s
influence then imbedded within architecture, time, and trade. Popular
mythology relates the creation of units for measurement such as the
inch, foot, and yard to that of an Emperor or King’s thumb, foot, and
Contemporaneously, a movement away from the individual
towards the thoroughly abstract concept of The Institution is signified
with the introduction of standardized measurements to replace those
established by a ruling class. A foot one year, was not a foot the
next. Now, a foot is just a foot. These organic analogs for measurement
describe the practice of Anthropic units: a process of procuring
measurement using the human body as the index. The use of the hand
during Medieval-times was a popular reduction of unitary reference. One
finger length was the width of a palm. A hand was slightly larger.
Rodin (1840-1917) was, amongst other things, a collector of hands. He
had drawers of them. Cast hands, sculpted hands. The last work made
before his death was a cast of his own two appendages.
describing his sculpture as “Form giving rise to the idea” developed an
idiosyncratic approach to constructing sculptural narrative through the
assemblage of human body parts. Called Marcottage, Rodin and his
assistants would cast numerous gestures of hands, feet, arms, torsos,
etc… to be interchangeably layered for the building of figurative
monument. A hand for one sculpture would be recycled into that of
another. Rodin’s unitizing of representational form to construct his
sculptures, to arrange his narratives, acknowledges a self-established
system of trade used internally to address the construction of
narrative utilizing an individual vocabulary of form. Rodin’s atelier
shelves contained multiple versions of every body part and were
arranged according to type. Finished sculptures were cast and then
dissected to capture the gestures these contained for addition to his
library. The more Rodin made, the more he had to draw upon. Gestures
attributed to specific narratives were isolated. This approach
developed a cosmology of Rodinian language with which to address a
subject. His thoughts about a subject were conveyed using a material
alphabet of his own design. Not only did “Form give rise to the idea”,
it conveniently supplied the alphabet to spell it out.
Returning to my seat on the Paris Metro, I’m arriving at the station of Varenne.
platform of this metro station is flanked on either side by tracks of
opposing direction. Amongst advertisements for consumer products there
are placed signs of Rodin’s cosmology of representation achieved
through an acknowledgement of narrative within a material. Standing
within this middle zone I am confronted with two, and three, meter tall
versions of Rodin’s language, an object advertising an ideology located
elsewhere. I’m looking at The Thinker. The sculptures are displayed
alongside advertisements for consumer products and services. Signs are
located at a point of transition when a passenger decides where the
next destination would, or could, be: the museum, the grocery store, a
service on the internet, etc… The station is a place of transfer where
mental paths are made. Each of these signs, Rodin’s and the others,
announce a narrative option present at the site. The meaning of each
sign unfolds when it is chosen. I choose the museum. I’ll do the
Varenne, the Rodin metro stop, is the start of a
thought-finger: a unit of distance determined by a person’s
relationship to a subject. This particular thought-finger is 108 meters
in length, the distance from the Varenne metro station to the Musée
Rodin. A narrative is embedded within these two points. A
thought-finger’s distance is a piece of material, a form whose exterior
points have a beginning and an end. The interior of this form is
suggested by what I see and contemplate during the one hundred and
eight meter length of travel.
Marble exists in a fluid state
when embedded beneath the ground. Fluidity possesses an unpredictable
unknowing-ness. Extraction of this material solidifies its fluidity
into a decisive and separate form.
Fluid = unknown
Solid = known
Solidifying through gesture, thoughts in a brain adopt a form when uttered aloud.
about Malakoff I see each finger as a character, a fashioned path of
thought rising in to the air. The hand of this sleeping giant creates
nine monuments to difference. Nine fingers, carved from a related
material, announce their individuality when studied. A general form can
become very specific when analyzed. Each marble monolith displays a
veined collage of thought. Stories intertwine to produce an internal
architecture for this object.
These nine forms organize what I
had been thinking about into a proposal: units of thought producing
units of sculpture. Their existence offers a structure in which to
place the preceding information, ideas giving rise to form, The Nine
Finger of Malakoff.