‘The Living Pyramid’ at Sakıp Sabancı Museum
Along with “The Living Pyramid,” portraying our relationship with nature as a metaphor for our existence in the world, Denes’ Manifesto, written in 1969, is also on display in the SSM garden.
“The Living Pyramid” is a site-specific work, first constructed in 2015 at the Socrates Sculpture Park in New York and later at the Nordstadtpark in Kassel as part of documenta 14 in 2017. It can also be thought of as a living sculpture with a natural life cycle. The pyramid was planted, in part, by volunteer participants on Sept. 10 and 11, and it will grow and change shape as thousands of seeds turn into grasses and flowers.
Denes’ Manifesto, carved onto a marble slab and produced especially for this exhibition, takes its place as a permanent addition to the collection and garden.
Made of wooden stepped terraces filled with four tons of earth, the pyramid arcs 9 meters into the sky. Planted into its terraces are 2,000 plants and flowers belonging to approximately 600 species selected in collaboration with the artist from the urban flora of Istanbul; their positions on the pyramid are determined by the amount of sun and shade falling on each facade.
The pyramid will evolve throughout its public exhibition: The plants will sprout and bloom, some will go to seed, some will die. For Denes, this process is evidence of the organic development of nature as it interacts with the pyramid, one of the most iconic forms of human civilization.
Her statement, “While the pyramids are based on mathematics and thus achieve a kind of perfection, they contain all the imperfections they are dealing with or are representing and visualizing,” provides some insight into why she chooses to explore the relationship between humans and nature through the living pyramid.
Denes, who has been using the pyramid form as a metaphor in different media from drawing to sculpture for nearly half a century, also uses the form to question the social hierarchies inherent in our perception of the world.
“The Living Pyramid” will be activated through accompanying educational programs, promoting environmental awareness, conservation and sustainability.
After the exhibition, which will continue through Jan. 29, 2023, the Sakıp Sabancı Museum will continue to embrace Denes’s approach, inviting visitors to adopt the plants.