aluminium cotton linen contact adhesive
5 x 5 x 5cm (closed)
edition: 50 (only 40 have been made as yet)
collection: Private Collection
It is widely accepted that a cube is the symbol of the earth. This folded-up cube sculpture represents the world of existence in the form of an abstracted city. The 'city' is contained within the cube. When the six sides are unfolded, the parts of the 'city' are revealed, but then become something else. Only when the cube is closed and the parts come together can the city be realised.
Logically speaking, the simplest way of unfolding a cube will result in the formation of a cross. KUBUS, as a sculpture initially in the form of a cube, does not unfold as a cross, but in the shape of steps, which suggest a stepladder between the spiritual and the habitable worlds.
I arranged the urban pattern by dividing the cube into 27 (3 x 3 x 3) blocks of the same size, which I ground to roughly fit in with the angles and heights of a futuristic urban format. The prototype was made of aluminium. I then cut six thin flat aluminium squares. They were arranged flat in the chosen order, and joined by cutting out and sticking plastic reinforced cotton linen on them, using contact adhesive. I attached thicker sheets of aluminium on top of every thin sheet and area of cotton, very precisely, and bevelled the sides of the thicker sheets to the inside at an angle of 45º. After that I fixed every square in place to fit the moving parts of the other five surfaces exactly. The inner, almost invisible cotton linen acts as a hinge, as do the hard covers of books when they are opened and closed.
The sequence in which KUBUS folds and unfolds is important, as I wanted it to function like a combination lock. The opening and closing of books is part of the process of unlocking knowledge. On a conceptual and personal level, the opening and closing of KUBUSfunctions in a similar fashion. Another source of inspiration was commercial tourist maps, which can be folded and unfolded. A big city with tall buildings can be imagined easily while one is navigating that city using a map in the traditional form of a flat piece of paper which is normally folded, to make carrying and storage practical. The opening, paging through and folding character of three-dimensional books and maps is alluded to in KUBUS, since this three-dimensional little city is wrung out of a flat-surfaced form. The eye 'walks' through the pages of a book that contains geographical information with greater ease than the reader can walk on foot between the buildings at street level. In many modern cities, each person is surrounded by square and rectangular grids that cover vast areas. Conversely, KUBUS can be held in the palm of one's hand.
The printed book gave humankind access to knowledge. Whereas the fruits of other people's efforts and learning were once inaccessible and incomprehensible, they can now be 'bound' in books. The Industrial Revolution made it possible to extend the range even further. The greater speeds achieved by machines such as motor cars, trains, and eventually aeroplanes put what had previously been outside the ordinary person's field of vision, within it. In cities, the modern and technologically-advanced population move efficiently on vertical and horizontal planes by means of lifts and motor cars.
The first model and prototype took only two weeks to complete. Then I began manufacturing a series of identical cubes or Kubusse, using the prototype as a model. The original prototype was unfortunately stolen when I exhibited my work in public for the first time at the Johannesburg Art Gallery in September 1981.
In 1982 I created a multiple of KUBUS in 50 copies which were all made by hand. To date I have completed only 40 examples: ten have still to be made.
(transcript from an interview conducted with the artist by W Siebrits, June 2007)