Coupled Columns, 2024 performance with Andreea Ilie
Coupled Columns, 2024 150 x 60 x 240 cm

2024: Coupled Columns

Coupled Columns performance with Andreea Ilie
Presented at Ephemere, Bucharest, 31 May – 2 June 2024
Project curated by Ilinca Pop

With the performative installation “Coupled Columns”, Vlad Nancă envisages a new relational imaginary emerging from the ruins of our deeply rooted ideas about the human body. While any notion of the body describes broad territories of meaning, in “Coupled Columns”, bodies refuse to be grasped as abstractions, ordered systems or embodiments of a regulatory ideal. Escaping rationalised love, measure, and proportion, they claim the burden of supporting and sharing a sensible world of structures and contracts which simultaneously bind and separate us.

Ties between the human body and notions of order, proportion, beauty or symmetry have governed architectural thought for centuries, echoing in the customary metaphors of bodies as ordered systems or logically determined structures. The layout of the coupled columns is important to the matter of structural logic. Throughout the history of rejecting mystification and pursuing architecture scientifically, the coupled columns have emerged primarily from the advance of static experiments, with a scheme allowing for the bearing elements of a construction to carry a lighter load. However, within a classical colonnade, the coupled columns firstly appeared as a heresy. In the second half of the 17th century, in the backdrop of the cultural quarrel of the Ancient and the Moderns, this proposition was made by Claude Perrault (a member of the French Academy of Sciences) who challenged the fixed truths defended by the members of the French Academy of Architecture. He conceived a system of coupled columns against the rules of classical intercolumniation and, in spite of the static superiority of his proposition—which later brought him a great number of admirers—he initially faced resistance among those who defended true beauty and ideal proportion.

As with Vlad Nancă’s reflection upon our daily struggle to share and to hold, each of the coupled columns in Perrault’s scheme supports half the load which was initially designated for a single column, each entire column supporting half the weight of the architrave which originally rested on the half of a column. Static systems such as this one have grown roots in language and imagination, structuring and shaping relational universes through the metaphors we live by—borrowing George Lakoff’s words—we share the weight; we support each other; we’re each other’s pillar. “Coupled Columns” tests the limits of these metaphors, projecting back onto form and matter the myriad of other systems shaping our relationships. Movement links the couple to a temporal dimension, allowing their bodies to be so in sync, so connected, as they enact the individuality and entanglements of the self.

Text by Ilinca Pop