Searching the instant truth

The static does not exist. One movement embraces another movement, and this circuit self-propagates to the infinite. Alejandra Ruddoff reports the magnitude of movement, exploring through form the truth of the instant.

The works leave behind the mere metaphor of the represented. They dig in the writing of an – including and at the same time included – totality which recognizes its dimension as temporal. A whole which is and becomes, and which, comprehending multiple, continuous and circular dimensions of time, claims the concept of now. Each line draws the dynamics of an itinerary which acquires vigour and presence and converts into a whole that is able to cristallize eternal movements.

The reference to the eternal return and to the unchanging universal transformation increases these cyclic universes. As well as each thing is subject to its time – and its change –, each universe in tension is subject to its material. Choosing the technique has in no way been random. Situated at the border between sculpture and drawing, the graphic sign of the passage from the resistant to the fragile stays behind, like a residue which translates its origin. The issue is not only about possible entropies. Disorder has a particular form; an order: movement and material correlate.

Recognizing the perpetual continuity of the mobile, metal etchings, seals and sculptures report the dynamics of the material in transformation. Thus, the tension stops being part of the ephemeral and recognizes its being a new component of the harmonic, of the present, of the spatial.

These cartographies of change, these micro-momentums and macro-universes converge as symbolic appropriation of space, rendering visible the imperceptible harmony of the orbitting.

Elisa Sepulveda Ruddoff

Art history, aesthetics and art history university degree, Université Panthéon - Sorbonne, Paris.


A sculpture finds her place

In the end of the year 2000, the catalogue of an Chilean artist yet relatively unknown in Germany, with the name Alejandra Ruddoff was on the desk – with the inquiry if one of the represented sculptures named “Forward” could be set up in Potsdam. At that time the “Schiffbauergasse” was still in ruins. It had been decided to create an “integrated culture and business location” including a new theatre but at that time no sustainable concept existed yet. So the catalogue landed in the drawer. But somehow the sculpture did not “rest”. From time to time the images of the catalogue would be looked at just to conclude that in dead there was no – thematically corresponding! – location for such a sculpture within the inner space of “Schiffbauergasse”.

Already at that time the vision of the “Schiffbauergasse” exceeded the project framework of the city of Potsdam alone, also financially. Since for the first time there was a minister of culture at the federal level, Michael Naumann he was invited. Courageously he climbed onto the grungy coke separator (today used by “ORACLE”) and looked around. Spontaneously he suggested 800.000 Mark for the concept development of this new culture and business location.

Occupied with this, the catalogue continued to lie in the drawer. Once more on the way to the Schiffbauergasse, sometime in 2001, along the ever chaotic highway drive-up to “Humboldt Bridge” crossing river Havel it seemed so clear: “Forward” belongs exactly here. A call to Miss Ruddoff in Chile turned into a peculiar “déjà vu”: Not only did she speak fluent German but she answered straight away, “yes, next to Schiffbauergasse Potsdam, that is where the statue should be”. Just before she had met Michael Naumann at a reception in the German Embassy in Santiago; without prior discussions or decisions he suddenly got that flash of idea when he saw pictures of the sculpture.

Now it turned out that a 1:1 model made of high resistance foam, which Alejandra Ruddoff had produced during a fellowship at the sculptor atelier of BBK still existed in Berlin. It had been taken apart and these single parts were stored in the garden.... The initiative “pro schiffbauergasse”, sponsors and the Chilean Embassy supported the artist to come to Germany for a working stay; the model was build together in order to resist the weather, it was lacquered with a metal colour coating and on the 28.9.20002 “as a sign of the cooperation of culture and business” it was festively uncovered with prominent support in the middle of the grass corridor of the highway at the Humboldt Bridge. The Lord Major of Potsdam Jann Jakobs said:

„Within all forward striving dynamic we are also reminded of Sisyphus destiny, which was to always and again roll the same stone. Retrospectively this antique image of a never ending but regularly returning burden seems quite comfortable; with one stone the situation was rather manageable. The modern Sisyphus is driven by always changing accelerations and forces. This rotating centrifugal force also has elements of a racing automotive and therewith embodies something hardly foreseeable. Are we really still ourselves directing this?”

And the inner subject was pronounced – “Forward”, built up in the middle of the heavy but sometimes also almost totally quiet traffic at an until then neglected junction of the city also changed the apperception of the area and touched many people: Drivers understood the statue as a new landmark, wedding ceremonies and school classes took pictures in front of the statue and also a cycling Minister of Foreign Affairs named Joschka Fischer is well known to have taken out his mobile in astonishment in order to ask one of his public officials from the German Embassy in Chile to explain him what exactly this was.

Also the city planning reacted. Soon the first works started to renovate the dilapidated bridge; in 2005 the statue disappeared for certain time periods behind machines and fences. Some guy used this and decapitated the figure in an august night. It must have been very rare that the public and media reacted with such a strong appal to a case of vandalism in Potsdam. Criminal department of police searched the city and the lands for the disappeared head. Again the “initiative pro schiffbauergasse”, in front Jochim Sedemund, and the Chilean Embassy cooperated for the reparation and realignment. Finally in December 2005 a police officer brought the head of the statue in a plastic bag, which had been found and brought to station by a citizen... The Minister for construction and city development of Brandenburg at that time Frank Szymanski said: “I am attached to the sculpture. She shows movement and is allegory for the connection of the past with the future!” - and also supported important grants from raffle funds.

But where, in the middle of the winter? The restoration of “Forward” took place in the cold throughout February and above all in an atelier within the former district office of the former east german secret police “Stasi” at the Pfingstberg. Alejandra Ruddoff was invited back to Germany for the restoration. She did not only experience meter high snow but also the highly motivated support on- sight and she used this opportunity to make new contacts and new works as displayed in the exhibition.

On 29.4.2006 the model of “Forward” was positioned solicitously at the Humboldt Brücke, now more visible on a higher base – simultaneously symbolic for the finish of different construction sections of the cultural centre “Schiffbauergasse”. Again the Lord Major Jakobs and the construction and city development Minister Reinhold Dellmann affirmed together the interest and disposition to a durable installation of the sculpture at the drive-up of the Humboldt Bridge – durable also concerning the material and the environment. Naturally as cast metal sculpture on the spatial crossing in order to finally bridge the gap within urban construction between city centre of Potsdam, Schiffbauergasse and Berlin periphery.

The fact that the newly appointed Chilean President Michelle Bachelet had spent some years in exile in Potsdam led to an acceleration of the process. During her time in Potsdam she often took the tramway from her residential area over the bridge named after Alexander (and his brother Wilhelm) von Humboldt until today very honoured as natural scientist in Latin America, as she remembered clearly in her conversation with Alejandra Ruddoff. For a cast the perfect shape is needed- and “Forward” now at the side of Behlertstraße, due to the construction works at the Humboldt Bridge, certainly was not exactly that because of the material and the many revisions.

Perfect shapes are manufactured at the Volkswagen Design Center Schiffbauergasse – and car designers can learn the adaptation of a free form from artists and artists can learn the perfect technical conversion from car designers.

That was the reason for the Volkswagen Design Center to accommodate Alejandra Ruddoff in fall 2006 with a temporary atelier – In order to make possible the creation of a new “master“ shape for “Forward” in a kind of workshop with personal and technical assistance. But not only the physical mould (scale 1:3) was produced but also a high-tech laser scan, normally only used within the industry that saved the exact, scalable and reproducible data. A model version of “Forward” printed out three dimensional shows what the connection of culture and business can achieve.

It was the dedication that finally led to the decision (Nr. 07/SVV/1119) of the city council assembly Potsdam:

“Following the construction works at the Humboldt Bridge the city council accomplishes a durable location for the Chilean Artists Alejandra Ruddoff’s peace of art “Forward”. (…) End of the year 2008 the state of the project will be reported to the culture commission”. At the same time the Lord Major was appointed to integrate private initiatives or sponsors out of the business sector for the execution, so that the city itself would not be financially burdened.

Conversations within the urban planning department of the city of Potsdam, the Ministry for construction and city development as the comprehensive regional planning department of the state of Brandenburg and the Chilean Embassy reached a framework consensus to develop the crossover Humboldt Bridge / Berliner Straße as “Plaza de Chile“. The plan to integrate German and Chilean students from architectural-/urban- and gardening study cycles in a workshop was a particularly interesting idea. The Chilean Embassy confirmed its cooperation; and announced to provide Chilean trees for the areal – in consideration of the eponym v. Humboldt and the tradition in Potsdam to decorate streets, squares and gardens with exotic plants.

As Lord Major Jakobs already noticed in 2002 it reminds the automobile theme of “Forward” and the inherent hubris, which has made the follow-up of this intention rather difficult: The costs for the refurbishment of the Humboldt Bridge and the crossover Berliner Straße exploded. The decision to use the area for the development of a “car friendly city”, with the hastily construction of this lane across the Havel and into the city in the 1970’s took its revenge: Lord Major Jann Jakobs and Construction Minister Reinhold Dellmann had a conflict because of the financial plan of the additional charges (total sum of 55 Million € by now!) of the construction; the city’s newly appointed construction deputy Matthias Klipp threatened with a construction stop, which would have lead to years of permanent traffic jams for all car drivers.

The involved may be advised to behave “Forward” as Sisyphus: The duties and responsibilities of urban construction are never ending but only movement can take out the tension. Maybe it means that even in “culture state Germany” public authorities have to make the first step and carry the responsibility within such a large project for the liveable organisation of the city and therewith of art in the public sphere – this cannot merely be delegated to private persons and sponsors out of the business sector.

It is not presumptuous to hope that also Alejandra Ruddoff’s sculpture will find the appropriate support for the durable realization as a cast and therewith find its “rest” – on the Humboldt Bridge, at the Berliner Straße, in front of the “Schiffbauergasse”, in the middle of traffic rush and stop-and-go, in this urban and cosmopolitan space.

The exhibition shown in the „Altes Rathaus“ in Potsdam presenting Alejandra Ruddoffs opus is definitely a footstep on this path.

Martin Schmidt-Roßleben is former chief officer of culture of the city of Potsdam and developed the vision and realization of the urban waste land “Schiffbauergasse” to an integrated cultural and business location next to the Arcadian banks of river Havel, containing the town’s new theatre building, various spaces for the arts and temporary commercial use like facilities for “ORACLE” and the Volkswagen Design Center.

Time Strata

Towards An Ontology of Form

The man in the middle of renowned Chilean sculptress Alejandra Ruddoff’s sculpture “Forward” (“Nach Vorn”), is something of an enigma, and he is a resurgent being, caught in time. He propels and is propelled by the forces that surround him, of which he is a part, and those forces involve a specificity of place. And place is both a physical and metaphysical quality - an outer and inner phenomenon. The man is also propelled by his own consciousness, which is an abstraction of ever there was one, and a certain capacity to modify his destiny hence the movement inherent to Ruddoff's sculpture. And that motion provokes feelings and emotions, for the physical plays a role in the metaphysics of time and place we all exist within. That conundrum of consciousness and the ontology of life we are seldom aware of in daily life, we sense at the extremes of our life experience birth and death. It is a parabolic curve, as if our lives were moving and being moved by forces at once universal and greater than any of us collectively or individually but forces that are as intimate and eternal as they are microcosmic.

The forms that engulf but do not overwhelm the man that is the subject of Ahead in Ruddoff’s own words represent, an identity where we can recognize ourselves in the middle of the time. And Ruddoff confirms the sense that our physical bodily selves relate to a physics of place, almost preternaturally when she confirms to this writer, “my forms (…) recognize various geological relations such as the land or the impression that rocks may imprint on the land.“ These structures could be the products of a pneumatic gauge but aligned naturally.

There is a natural continuity between Ruddoff’s large scale public artwork Homage to the Wind (2000) enacted in the Pampa Magallanica of Chile and the present Ahead in such an urban and historic setting. Both sculptures maintain an open dialogue with our relation to time and place in a universal and dynamic sense. The social dialogue is one that embraces our place in the natural world, and both sculptures reflect an awareness of our physical and metaphysical beings. The synchronicity between form and place is synthetic as much as it is organic. It involves velocity, the physics and dynamism of life itself. What is more, Forward engages us with its leitmotif of the intertwining of human innovation, our capacity to invent, to adapt, to design with a central understanding of the economics of matter. The strata or geomorphic forms we see in Forward suggest an integration of humanity into the ecosystem, and just as true design works with nature, all sculpture, whether synthetic or organic, establishes its language on the basis of an ecology of materials. Like Constantin Brancusi’s Endless Column (1938) in Târgu Jiu, Romania. Ruddoff’s sculpture shares something of the primitivist love of simple form. Brancusi referenced a material culture rooted in geo-specific identity. The primary elements and materials he used reflected his identity. Alejandra Ruddoff’s sculpture exists at another stage in history where the death of industrial culture is now occurring, and a new sustainable model for culture and economy is emergent. Ruddoff’s sculptural forms allude to nature, but also to the mechanical, and to an aesthetic rooted in the industrial but here we see the industrial amid strata of historical progression expressed through geological forms.

As early as 1995, Alejandra Ruddoff produced a series of small-scale aluminum works that share a formal simplicity and organic logic akin to the present large scale version of Forward. The allusions were to physics, the abstract nature of thought, and they are above all sculptures that visualize a dialogical relation between the mechanical and the organic. These two elements co-exist just as humanity exists in a communal relation to the nature environments he redesigns, elaborates on, and intertwines with.

Some of these smaller-scaled sculptures, on view for the present solo exhibition of Alejandra Ruddoff’s sculptures are quintessentially human, a paradigmatic emblem of history in transition, and all that implies. Change is inherent to the man in this sculpture, and we see him as part of an endless and repeating ontology that is the forms in front of and behind him. These tangible geomorphic layers are sculptural metaphors for the cycle of change, we humans find ourselves in.

Alejandra Ruddoff’s sculptures allude to a grander, more public scale of sculpture, even when they are studies, maquettes, drawings, lithographs. Her sculptures are born of and within a composite vision of nature. With an unusual ambiguity and continuity of repeating forms, they are shapes in formation. We see this in Obelisk, and in Diacronía. Diacronía is a sculpture that relates to a public commission made by Alejandra Ruddoff for the Metropolitan Park adjacent to a bridge by the Mapocho River in downtown Santiago, in Chile several years ago. The forms intrigue us, just as the drawings and printworks on exhibit do, for the themes resurface as reconfigurations of the metaphysics of physics of space and time. The reason these works surprise us, is Ruddoff draws her inspiration from direct observation and inductive thought. This contrasts the image-based copying of symbols and caricatures, and cut and paste imaging of our times. These sculptures have a designer’s imperative, and an interest in structures, not as images but as metaphors for life itself, and even when the landscape and urban environments interceded, they seem to compliment these expansive sculpted works.

Within each of Alejandra Ruddoff’s sculptures, we find the forms are at a state of dynamic shift. They are worlds within worlds. The forms vary from each other, yet mirror and echo each other. As dynamic shapes they refer to a broader geological expanse of time, and likewise suggest layers of time. Alejandra Ruddoff’s sculptures are brief glimpses into our place within the strata of time. The formal variations are subtle, impossible to seize in their entirety, as they are physical fragments, never contained or enclosed, or even conceived of a conclusive entirety.

So, Ruddoff maintains an open sculptural dialogue with (natural) history. Ruddoff’s sculpture goes beyond the modernist language of David Smith’s cut steel collages, or the pastoral majesty of Henry Moore’s sculpture, and enters into the realm of science and physics, but always with a basic questioning humanity. Who are we? What is this voyage of life we, as a civilization are engaged in? We find no answers to these questions here… just structural sculptural metaphors that hinge in a balance between consciousness and intuition. There is natural erosion here too, and we sense that time is acting on these sculpted elements, as if they existed in nature, along with this symbolic man. And there is a flexible and elastic dynamism to the sculpture seen in its entirety. This metaphor for a state of change relates to the humanist experiment, all our innovations and historical progressions, now in a state of change. The mechanisms that are the structure of Ruddoff's sculpture look both natural and likewise reference the mechanisms that inspire humans to innovate. This is an ongoing and progressive evolution. Technology may drive history, just as nature inevitably drives humanity, for we have an instinct as much as a consciousness, and the former derives from our inherited sensibility.

The mechanisms are purely conjectural, and project into space, but do not define that imaginative space of invention. The freedom exists is the mutual and diachronic way Ruddoff plays on and with organic form, and varies these as a series of repeating variations, to then bring in that other, more literal and graphic mechanics of meaning. With these sculptures, we can visualize a memory inherent to matter itself, which is part of the process of nature’s natural procreation, as much as we can sense the conscious intervention of human design. Design exists within an ontology of ever changing form(s) in a hypothetical, let living space. This aspect of memory Ruddoff alludes to is not just spatial or sculptural, but is a memory integral to all matter. And so physics collaborates with intuition in Alejandra Ruddoff’s sculptures. And so memory is integral to matter, and to the way forms are shaped in a continuity of experience - time shapes form.

The man in Forward exists within a seemingly endless succession of strata – fragments of strata – yet within all this he sees and sense his place – and to an extent directs or seeks to have a handle on it all. Neither victim nor controller, but a designer who is within a larger design, he looks so physical as he is invented by Ruddoff to be brought into a metaphorical state, an allusion of time. This is sculpture about an ontology of form, of a suggestive space where matter moves through its sequence, a sequence that is never ending suggests a continuum of form. But form here is not contained as form. Instead it is merely a succession of contiguous forms that times moves through. Hyperbolic gestures in space are now concretized, as if the allusion were to the origins of the world in nature.

There is a nostalgia for a mechanical era, and this, in a post-Industrial era, even more ironic, an industrial that evolved out of a culture - Chile - where nature remains a potent source. In Chile, the historical distance from industrialism is twice removed. It produces a double perspective on history, where one senses an ellipse of meaning. Production as metaphor is less contained, even has an elastic, and flexible hold on the transformation of space by an overwhelming force of nature. Hence the energy suggested by these albeit beautiful, and repeating forms forges a counterpoint. An ambiguity exists in the synthetic / natural dualism inherent to Alejandra Ruddoff's sculptures.

The sculptor who works with physical space in the 21st century is something of an anomaly, and yet the physical world remains as important to our future as it ever was. While digital imagery, and new technologies have become a dogma of sorts, that offers a world of potential freedoms, they remain less complex than the real world, and the human eye remains more intricate and capable of retaining experience as it is, than a digital memory and screen technology.

The origins of any form are alluded to in the materials one works with. Drawn from their immediate environment, Alejandra Ruddoff’s sculptures are given a voice by the material metaphor. Her forms exist as fragments of some greater intuited form. They suggest a continuity of form in space but forms that are objectified. The movement is through the forms, not around it as was the case for the Italian sculptor Umberto Boccioni’s Unique Forms of Continuity in Space (1913).

Alejandra Ruddoff’s public sculpture Forward is about the physical world, and indeed the physics of life, of which we are a part. The implied motion becomes a paraphrase for our emotional state in a time of change, as much technological as natural and historical. A succession of forms or variations, with a near musical variability, yet always adhering to the central axis or spine of this sculpture, draws parallels between the human body and the landscape, for the body exists within a phrasing of time, of place, within space. So velocity, though not demonstrated is alluded to in this sculpture. The forms are theatrical as well, and demonstrate the place of sculpture within the promising, and majestic architecture of Potsdam.

The universal voice reaches upwards, and is reborn. There is a potential expansion or contraction in these mechanical organic forms. They could potentially expand or they could contract. The synthetic and the organic reference the human condition, but presents us an elastic mimesis that is quintessentially sculptural and as archaic as it is of our era.

Alejandra Ruddoff’s sculpture searches for an ontology of form.

John K. Grande

Art critic and writer. Curator Emeritus of Earth Art at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Canada.

The National Fine Arts Museum introduces the sculpture exhibition by the artist ALEJANDRA RUDDOFF,

titled Routes in Movement

The exhibition presented by Alejandra at our museum, initiated in 1988, corresponds to her most recent work, and from my standpoint, it represents the height of her esthetic belief where volume is dematerialized. In 1988, she begins to explore a means to extract mass and weight from sculpture, allowing its expansion into space. This year, her research in Munich, has taken her to create spatial structures virtually free from its links to gravity, relinquishing involving masses that converge into mounded sculptures, and has advanced towards space, where space itself becomes the vital performer.

The experience is twofold upon her second period in Munich in 1992, she learns the relevance of energetic movement and speed when exposed to observing the BMW automobile industry.

By surrendering volume from mass and weight, the appearance it that of force lines deployed in different directions in a sort of route without beginning or end, where the beginning and end of a mechanical temporality becomes naught. It is not by chance that her work refers to transit, circulation, trail, stellar wind or constellation.

As mentioned above, this proposal exhibited at the museum is the result of research in a field of sculpture: that of dematerialization.

However, in her sculptural corpus other cohabiting options may be found, such as, the recovery of volume as mass and weight. If it is not found in this exhibition, it does not refer to her abandonment of those views, as at this time, she preferred to priviledge spatial exploration.

Milan Ivelic

Director National Fine Arts Museum (1993-2011)

Homage to the Wind

Perhaps the only Chilean artwork that can also be considered a poem is “Homage to the Wind”, by Alejandra Ruddoff. This sculpture, erected in the southernmost region of the world, exhibits both the germinal lightness of poetry (or a thistle seed, as she herself defines it somewhere) and the clean beauty of old monuments. It represents the winds, the landscape and their folly; they become visible and their force, their contrasts, their changes in direction are embodied in a way that reflects human emotions.

This work personifies the winds, and with them, the immensity of the universe, comparing them to the passion, the gale or the breeze within us (poetry has always linked passions and wind), while expressions of nature, the atmosphere, the earth. Alejandra Ruddoff makes us perceive the loneliness of the unembraceable southern moors. The stright line of a highway and, crossing it diagonally, these four stainless steel stems crowned by whirling flowers, their spirals vibrating with the vibration of all the sprigs and flowers, all grasses and petals in the world, making a silent prayer for the unity of all creation.

This sculpture shows a dimension where nature becomes intimate, reflecting the subtlest feeling or the fiercest outbursts of madness, folly or passion. There is something mad in this piece that seems to stretch beyond human possibilities. Like a sort of lightning rod, those four steel columns and their rotary spirals attract to themselves all natural forces, the geography that fades into the distance, while we discover that these landscapes also live in the middle of what words have defined as heart, soul, mirage.

In a sort of dream, we inhabit these lands, build highways and suddenly realize that the whole purpose of our efforts was for an artist, one of the most remarkable today, to show us the hidden side of our own passions, our loneliness, exposure and nostalgia. Alejandra Ruddoff has signed these landscapes: the southern pampas of South America are still the same, after this, but different. I imagine a car along the highway and see the sculpture crossing diagonally as a dream that includes us all, where we are the image of the sky and the wind, of wide pastures, of barren frozen land, of clouds and frost.

This is one of the most beautiful pieces of sculpture and, erasing all barriers between image and word, between flesh and spirit, between nature and soul, it is one of the greatest poems ever to be written in Chile. The author has named her work “Homage to he Wind”, but above it the Southern Cross extends its arms: it is also a homage to the South in its stars, its nebula, its galaxies. Something similar to our undefinable glance lost in the distance, when it touches these four steel sprigs, these four light and admirable flowers, and everything we consider human becomes more intense and stronger, more silent and remote.

Alejandra Rudoff´s sculpture becomes one more detail of nature through which that same nature reveals it has a soul, its own songs and poems, its words.

Raúl Zurita

Chilean National Poetry Prize.

Polarities of Sculpture in this Landscape

Oppositions by contradiction, as a characteristic of the critical space opened by modernity, are unavoidable determinants in order to understand Contemporary Arts. Therefore, accounting for a local production implies the assumption of the difficulties found in this situation to which we should also add precariousness, especially in terms of temporality, of our own history; history which is defined by the meaningful plus with which international trends are influenced.

The concept of polarity comes up in the midst of the discourse of contradictory opposites, saving what cannot be saved, when contradiction is subdued to the systematisation of the same situation. And this will allow the emergence of the concept of “autonomy”, already necessary when rigorously questioning, when glancing to particular modalities of production and to the meaningful structures of artworks.

Out of the opposition stemming from the discourse of Rodin against that of Hildebrandt, the origin of contemporary sculpture can be identified. It is an opposition of unreconcilable concepts relative to shape itself; the “cube in explosion” by Rodin, detached radically from the understanding of unitary totality formulated by his opponent, who still maintained the magic of absolute forms from the XV Century. It is precisely that what reminds us of the first contradiction to this crystalline idea, when in the XVI Century, the sense of the world was lost and the concepts of space and time were strongly influenced by uncertainty. Likewise, the unity and clarity of forms is affected accordingly, and art is opened to a hazy world due to its own fragmentation and hermetism. Deep eccentricity, a legacy we carry over along a process of permanent uprooting.

These oppositions can be considered foundational not only because they set basic concepts functional to criticism but also because they become the onset of an operation triggered by contradiction.

These contradictions which are widely determinant to the XIX Century European sculpture are shown in our local sculpture from their particularities, amazingly persistently, despite the subsequent and important inclusions. What is really striking is that in the Continent of modernity, the zeal for continuance can be so important.

Contemporary history of sculpture in Chile is rooted in three different authors: Lorenzo Domínguez, Marta Colvin and Lily Garafulic, who are present in the local arena from 1930’s to 1960’s.

Due to his important potential contribution, Lorenzo Domínguez legacy, in spite of himself, is a discourse which became orthodoxy even for his detractors, becoming a milestone for the School of Fine Arts of Universidad de Chile. For him, the material is what entails the fundamental concept of the artwork, where the mass -weight ratio is basic in the shape of the block to which the mythic value of the stone - preferred beneficiary of the American spirit -must be added.

Semper, in the XIX Century described the basic formal determinants of architecture –which are also useful for sculpture- in the opposition between stereotonics and tectonics. The first concept refers to subtraction or excavation from a basic block; the other, to the formal development through addition or aggregation of parts. In this opposition, Dominguez represents the first polarity and Marta Colvin offered us the second one some years later, as a result of her experiences with Laurens and Zadkine. She gave us an artwork in which the concept of construction, and therefore articulation, is determinant. Later on (1962), Lily Garafulic disarranged this polarity by exploring the treatment of surfaces with a pictorial approach which, like a make-up, altered the original “nobility” of the material and destroyed its pregnancy. In some other pieces she even explored a new relationship with graphics, altering a “trascendentalism” which, locally, tends to be recurrent.

Alejandra recognises two teachers in her career who are somehow present in the tensions mentioned previously; in the opposites represented in her work. They are Juan Eganeau and Luis Mandiola. In the former, much of the foundational discourse of Dominguez is identified in spite of his relationship to surrealism, which he solves through a surface treatment, through graphic approaches, both in the treatment of textures and in the figures’ association. In Mandiola’s work as a sculptor, a tendency to neo-figuration is appreciated, but mainly from an object manipulation of a tectonic character. Already in Ruddoff’s teachers we find the options mentioned; although in Mandiola pictorial-like treatment are present according to his background as painter and ceramist.

Nevertheless, it must be mentioned that Ruddoff studied in the Faculty of Arts of Universidad de Chile from 1979, which was the last year of profound cultural transformations imposed by the military regime, among which the control and dismantling of the Fine Arts Schools is identified. In this context, the options Egenau and Mandiola are the most innovative in an institution where, from 1973 on, all experimentation and especially any critical reflexive process was radically attacked. Therefore, all the antecedents quoted are, as a present or absent element, weighty enough in a kind of teaching where the concepts of closure or censorship are clear. In this landscape, the main responsibility of the student is that of surviving; and few are the successful ones. Thus, travelling abroad became a necessary objective. That is how Ruddoff went to Munich where she found in Hans Ladner the person to help her analyse the natural difficulties within which her work had been developed. Ladner is an interesting contact as his work seems to be tributary to the “new objectivity” where Barlack and Lehmbruck are found; these are also antecedents of an unfortunately forgotten teacher from our scene: Tótila Albert, whose absence became evident with Ruddoff’s reference. It can even be said that she claims for this referential vacuum in our history.

But the German scene inherited the tension between the “new objectivity” and the Bauhaus from the bright inter-war period. In the former, the work by Barlach became apparent from the treatment of volumes looking for the original formal primitiveness; Lehmbrück, however, projects his sensitivity in the plasticity of the matter and the tactfulness of surfaces. In Bauhaus, we find the attractive figure of Schlemmer, in the paradox that makes him “work as an sculptor”, in terms of volumetric operativity, his pictorial work and the clothing worn in his choreography. But he simultaneously works as a graphic designer, and due to the exclusiveness of reflecting, lineal and plain elements of his sculptural -or rather spatial- works, it became deprived from all material pregnancy. But the moment Ruddoff spent in Munich posed other difficulties. Lodner shared his presence with Paolozzi, the new heir of the new objectivity with the messenger of the English pop. Although in Germnay, Düsseldorf is clearly outstanding, especially due to the presence of Beuys, whose influence will soon find a contradiction with the emergence of Martin Lüpertz. In fact, polarities become more and more complex going through unsuspected options and reaching ever-changing alternatives.

This is also combined with the international scenario which includes general tendencies of art such as minimalism and Land-Art; these trends will show the insufficiency of the usual critical-theoretical supports. Such a context, will make us all carefully look at the proposal of Ressalind Krauss, based on the diagram of opposites by Greimas, where the sculpture/non-sculpture tension is presented as an analytical aperture towards contemporary sculpture.

Sculpture as a gender, which is determined by its own history, comprises the concept of field, whose overlimitation opens the possibility of experimentality, or introduction to the expansion of field. This necessarily forces the study of the inner field; precisely, its “Autonomy”: non-sculpture would then mean, primarily, to take charge of sculpture, a necessary effort to understand the margins or limitations of gender. In this kind of framework, experimentality is characteristic of a negative field which, in turn, owes its existence to the positive space where experimentality will be inscribed by becoming historically positive itself.

It seems logical that all this claims from us the basic existence of doing what is necessary, living within the contingency of this time and space which once again disturbs us in its own contingency: a rigorous and uninterrupted exploration, because all that opens the question of pertinence.

Ruddoff has gone through all the necessary steps, she has been a witness of a crucial period of our history, where precariousness in precarious conditions takes shape in the geometrical space. She is not far from that. Her work, speaking of a considerable production, talks about the different stages and tension of her time. “Male Torso” (1983) does not rest in her interrogation to a cast metal in search for different possibilities of plasticity and surface treatment, and also in search for the tension between the characteristic gravity of materiality and the loss of its pregnancy. “Free Spatial Structure” (1992) takes this tension up to the query about the field and its breakdown due to an unconventional management of supports. Moreover, in “Let an Idea Go” there is an abandonment of the unitary block, transferring to the piece itself, in its self-production, the production of its own spatiality, discarding the comfort of a previously and virtually assigned space.

“Vital Space I” is especially attractive where the weight of the body, which is clearly product of different articulations that make its unity fragile, is abandoned through cuts that clearly imply and approach to graphics, which can only be achieved as an absence of corporeality.

The study of lightness and loss of materiality comes to a climax in “Free Structure II”. In this case, exploration is made through bamboo structures, visualising a body whose transparency and fragility is in a productive contradiction with a form that we can soon define as precisely the carrier of the opposite attributes. Moreover, the contradiction becomes apparent in every structure-defining element. Thus, the structure will never reach the condition of total achievement as it is developed through tensions which are critical for every axis. Inside the productive process itself, the maximum presence of the positive-negative tension is achieved. This allows us now the inverse trip in order to reaffirm our acknowledgement all along the work of Alejandra Ruddoff as a rigorous and critical revision of the structures that we hope to recognise as part of sculpture itself.

Accounting for the question of property of sculpture, amid our precarious history, and at the same time resolving the supporting condition of the international tendencies are the difficulties in which Alejandra Ruddoff’s work has been developed. Nevertheless, such difficulties have been resolved with the wisdom of a person who shows a wide understanding of the disciplinary field as well as the necessary discipline to question it.

Francisco Brugnoli

Director of Museum of Contemporary Art • MAC Santiago de Chile