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Memory (2008), Anish Kapoor’s commissioned sculpture for the Deutsche Guggenheim, sits tightly within its gallery spaces—a twenty-four-ton, Cor-Ten steel tank, defined by its volume rather than by its mass. Its thin skin suggests a form that is ephemeral and unmonumental, defying gravity as it gently glances against the peripheries of the gallery walls, floors, and ceiling. Kapoor’s use of Cor-Ten steel and its inherent color properties relate the commission back to his early pigment sculptures. Rather than necessitating a coat of paint to smooth the interior curvatures, the sculpture’s 154 seamless tiles, perfectly manufactured to prevent any light from seeping through, read as one continuous form. These tiles create the necessary conditions for darkness and boundlessness within—the void.



Memory, 2008
Installation shot, Deutsche Guggenheim
Photo: Mathias Schormann


Kapoor’s sculptures elicit a certain confrontation. As participants rather than as mere spectators, we become hyperconscious of our own position in space and of our own scale. We want to walk around and under Memory’s bulging curves, but are denied this access. The sculpture is not architecture—we are prevented from entering its aperture/window. Kapoor coaxes us instead into having to circumambulate the sculpture at a remove, through several points of entry and exit in the galleries. Procession as proposition—the artist describes this as a “diagram that can never be completed.”


Memory, 2008
Installation shot, Deutsche Guggenheim
Photo: Mathias Schormann


Kapoor’s understanding of scale has played a decisive role in his career. Every model at his studio is analyzed with a human figure placed in relation to the architecture of the galleries. As with other large-scale installations, Memory defies the classical figure-ground relationship and exceeds somatic comprehension. It succeeds in creating a new perception of space through physical and mental scale. We not only have more to see, but have to exert more effort in the act of seeing. Kapoor describes this process as creating “mental sculpture.” Dematerializing steel and dismantling vision, Memory is the apotheosis of this cognitive process. Set within non-chronological time and fractured space, we are left to negotiate the sculpture’s ensuing incomprehensibility and fragmentation by attempting to piece together the images retained in our memories.



Memory, 2008
Installation shot, Deutsche Guggenheim
Photo: Mathias Schormann


Memory thus remains situational. It is relativistic, phenomenological, and ultimately unclaimed. As we attempt to catch glimpses of the sculpture’s exterior shell and interior belly, the present quickly becomes the past.