Journal of
Fine and Studio Art

  • Abbreviation: J. Studio Fine Art
  • Language: English
  • ISSN: 2141-6524
  • DOI: 10.5897/JFSA
  • Start Year: 2010
  • Published Articles: 13

Full Length Research Paper

Space as a unique context for sculpture theory and praxis in Ghana

Emmanuel Eyram Donkor*
  • Emmanuel Eyram Donkor*
  • Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (K.N.U.S.T), Kumasi, Ashanti, Ghana.
  • Google Scholar
Kwame Opoku-Bounsu
  • Kwame Opoku-Bounsu
  • Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (K.N.U.S.T), Kumasi, Ashanti, Ghana.
  • Google Scholar
Felix Annor Anim
  • Felix Annor Anim
  • Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (K.N.U.S.T), Kumasi, Ashanti, Ghana.
  • Google Scholar

  •  Received: 27 March 2016
  •  Accepted: 16 September 2016
  •  Published: 31 October 2016


This paper explores autonomous space as subject and object in studio sculpture experimental studies with the backdrop of spatial subjectivities inherent culturally in Ghana. The study looks at contemporary Ghanaian art presentation of space as integral in sculptural compositions contextually, with interests shuffling between inner and outer space, as corresponding to spatial conception in conventional sculpture. Authors trace the traditional conception of space in sculpture and the gradual emergence of space as a medium in opposition to their subjective forms. The study further, through studio-based spatial experimental mappings in emerging contemporary praxis articulates possibilities in exploring autonomous space as medium in sculpture.

Key words: Space, Ghanaian subjectivity, sculpture, contemporary, theory and praxis.


Ghana’s rapid urbanisation has created high urban population size challenges on public amenities as well as social life and mobility, with urban centres now housing more than a half of Ghanaian populace and expected to rise in the coming years (GNA, 2012). Urban centres are turning into slums, affecting water, accommodation and power supply sustainability among other things. Public schools, hospitals, roads, employment avenues and utilities are inadequate due to population sizes that access them. For instance, with one of the lowest road densities in the world (World Bank, 2013), Ghana’s importations of piles of used automobiles, making up 94 to 97% of the over 1.5 million vehicles (Tetteh-Addison, 2012), among other basic things. These old and sometimes discarded automobiles crowd the limited driving spaces, and pollute the environment. The resultant effect though comforting if juxtaposed with the 1980s shortage in transport, but overwhelming, since traffic problem on the tarred, and dust pollution on un-tarred roads, as well as man-hours lost sitting long traffic hours and fuel consumptions do not come with the usual compensations of employment and economic growth accompanying such numbers. We should also make mention of resources for maintenance and spare parts importations. In education, teacher-pupil ratios is as high as 1:33 (World Bank, 2013), coupled with schools under trees and sharing of non-existent furniture and learning materials (Owusu, 2012), our public basic schools are over-crowded if compared with a number of private institutions locally. The situation is not different in the secondary and tertiary levels, where facilities that held tens in the 1960s and 70s are holding multiples of hundreds. With doctor-patient of 1 doctor to over 6,000 patients on the average, and 1 doctor to between 29,000 and 44,000 to 93,000 patients in some places (The Chronicle 2013), in limited health facilities, doctors and patients are crowded out. Land area usages are also under pressure with most farmlands on the urban peripheries turning into residential zones and hybridized industrial/residential/commercial enclaves.

Most suburbs are turning into slums with overwhelming sanitation challenges. Space is contested, and things as mentioned above, are so pervasive that, they are gradually becoming normal to the Ghanaian. One has to detach from the Ghanaian realities, and take a stand that allows for reassessment of this “common reality” to fathom its nature (Kipfer et al., 2008: 15; Schmid, 2008: 40; Lefebvre, 1991b: 135). The notion of Ghana in paper is construed as post-colonial spatio-temporal relationships that incorporates it pre-colonial and colonial antecedents for the Ghanaian possibilities (Lefebvre, 1991a, b). Space is political, and it is a product of our socio-political histories–pre-colonial, colonial and our post-colnial turbulences. As such, issues such as referenced  above  affect  the  notion  of  Ghana  and  the possibilities promised with it spatiality. With excessive importation of almost everything from the most complex (aircrafts) to the mundane (toothpicks); most of them used, industries and services sectors are challenged, creating massive unemployment situation (Amankrah 2013, Cudjoe 2012). The average job-seeker in Ghana today is aware of the numbers in the competition, and this has created a subconscious suffocations resulting in bludgeoning strategies that corrupt law and order. All these are as result of post-colonial Ghanaian socio-political landscapes and planning regimes within them.

All these post-colonial urban spatial subjectivities are linked to the transient but persisting pre-colonial rural lifestyles that lay on the periphery of these urbanised regions. The paradoxes generated by these juxtapositions in our collective and still emerging subjectivities (Papastergiadis, 2010; Tuan, 2001; Atkinson, 2005) are worthy of sculptures engagement. This is where the experimental praxis analyses of studio practice in Donkor (2010) can be situated for greater understanding. The study in which series of experimentations aimed at the creation of spatial volumes in sculpture resulted in the exclusion of mass as defining entity, as in conventional sculpture making and evaluation. The study took a conventional approach, in that, philosophies and techniques employed in the studio praxis were pseudo-classical or modern in which sculpture equates to human and its abstractions (Sullivan, 2010, 2006). The study is inspired by constructivists’ approaches, characteristically in Gabo’s spatial experiments with nylon strings, opening up conventional sculpture. Donkor’s sculptures aim at de-materialising sculptural experience, whiles invoking viewer sensibilities in contemporary Ghanaian spatio-cultural subjectivities. It explores spectators’ subjectivities captured in Rose Lee Goldberg’s Space and Praxis in comprehending spatial intentions, especially of Bruce Nauman’s Green Light Corridor (1971) (Figure 2) and the corpus performative works articulated in her seminal work. In analysing these experimentations there was a paradox of “Thinking Michelangelo, making Pollock” in the analysis of Entangled Spaces (Figure 1). Michelangelo’s practice seem highly inconsistent with Pollock, but as an artistic strategy, it employs negation of mass with space with minimal demarcations, which most of the time, are fashioned in 5 mm steel rods hoops of 15 cm in diameter. The hoop as a representation of individual private space as exemplified in contemporary GPS/GPRS metaphors (Marshall, 2007: 31; Doloughan, 2002: 62-64) in cellular programmes or other social control systems (Poothius and Zook, 2013; Lianos and Wood, 2003) and zoned monitoring devices, that abstracts and capture personal space in a dot.




In exploring some of the situations in Ghanaian spatial politics, exhibition strategies that employ penetrations of the personal/private in public/shared spaces, by road and public transport and  health,  and  other social  amenities users were considered. In Entangled Spaces (2009) Donkor explores the subject of chaos that stems from overcrowding and crowd mobility failures. In these scenarios, there are series of different configurations of private/public and personal/shared spatial complexities thrown together, and using these GPS/GPRS forms in their multitudes, representative of conventional plinth spaces in classical/modern sculpture thrown together, a new spatial representations emerge. Here, individual spaces overlap and are joined through the communion of art making and audience participation. The concept of vacuums struggling for visibilities, and the tension resulting from such experience in absence seem to be the best description. This would have been different if the dots are mass or full humanoid forms that are thrown together. Here, determination of definitive spatial form is virtually impossible. The entanglement creates simultaneous perception of different spatial locations and borders in their definitive sense, resulting in a chaotic amalgamation of curvilinear lines and spaces characteristic of Jackson Pollock’s action painting (Grosz, 2008). How easily individual spaces move into, lose their autonomies, change over and become the others in the fluid unrestricted manner illustrate the flexibility of Ghanaians’ accommodation of precarious intercultural predispositions (Irwin, 2004). The marked borders explore further the spatial experience that can be achieved in any material to negate mass in sculpture representation. The study also creates a form of weightlessness, and within these weightless experiences, properties of the bordered spaces function as medium, with contents, which therefore determine the forms of the sculpture. The accomplishment of collapse of the anterior/posterior and interior/exterior boundaries usually characteristic of conventional sculpture representation cannot be overstated. Entangled Spaces is given at once, and any audience movement is an enquiry into the sculptural experience itself. Similarly, works like “anthill” (Figure 3), “dancing disc” (Figure 4) and the brain (Figure 5) equally negate mass for space in their representations and create numerous spatial reconfigurations. The blend between conceptual formulations and visual experiences are expressed into space incorporating forms which deny solidity of matter. The compositions and orientations of these  forms,  and  their   combination   with   others   into different complexities determine spaces’ material worthiness in the exploration of contemporary spatial subjectivities.





Space in contexts

Conventional sculpture traditions have infused sculptural practices with predominantly strong emphasis on mass and surface modulation inherited classically, with only subordinated interest in spatial considerations within and without the object. Contemporary Aesthetic theories as well as cultural geographies dwell on contemporary spatial distributions and functionalities, territorialities and their continual reconfigurations, (Papastergiadis, 2010: 79; Atkinson, 2005; Tuan, 2001; Porteus, 1976) as subject matter for the considerations of art. The simple mention of Michel Foucault's Panopticism (1975), Subject and Power (1982), Henri Lefebvre’s Production of Space (1991a); Critique of everyday Life (1991b), Giles Deleuze Foucault (1982), Rose Lee Goldberg’s Space and Praxis (1975) and Theodore Adorno’s Aesthetic Theory (1970) affirm the above and instantly suggest the numerous considerations of our common spatial subjectivities, the importance of the discourse of space today, and art’s participation in it. They also bring to the fore our citizenships and rights and their respective meanings beyond certain borders of power relations and meaning of society in our web-based globalised world (Schmid, 2008; Pinder, 2005; Lefebvre, 1991b).

Ghanaian sculpture practices have their spatial techniques conventionally; hence, sculpture is inherently objective using space to differentiate its mass distributions. Space, thus has no meaning as it was in the pre-colonial technical space, beyond gaps, pulses, enclosures and windows through which other mass representations are broken or revealed (Tucker, 1992). Space as tool to sculpturally articulate and produce knowledge forms about our here and now, private and public, local and global, indigenous and Diasporas, and our contemporaneous spatial peculiarities within global culture needs to be re-interrogated or explored in sculpture.

In fact, Enwezor (1999) argues that, spatiality mediated by language and the other in pre-colonial African sculptural practices constituting conceptuality alongside others like mores, projections and recollection, supports earlier claims made anthropologically in Mount (1973), Willett (1971), Beier (1968) and Segy (1969). In the same manner Vogel (1988) and Enwezor (2010) suggest how African art, predominantly sculptural should be handled spatially to articulate meaning. Same but subtle analyses can be seen in Goldwater (1935) and Steiner (1994) exploring contextual associations of the object within their respective cultural epistemologies. Prior to the late 1980s African sculptural representations in western (re)collections    and    projections     were     treated     as autonomous objects, Vogel (1988). This ideology informed their idiosyncratic collection and consumption as artistic representations, and possible transmutations in Picasso and Braque’s cubist revolution of early 20th century, Enwezor (1999). This according to Okui Enweazor and Chika Okeke-Agulu (2009), informed formal art pedagogies in western colonies in Africa and post-colonial art education, culminating in a form of a “morphological death” (Kalilu and Oladugbagbe, 2013; Sei’dou, 2014a, b) so far as exploring independent spatial materiality of sculpture representations are concerned. Aside Anatsui’s over the years’ spatial repertoires involving wood and counter top representations, Dorothy Amenuke’s Fabric as Spatial Metaphors (2012), Ibrahim Mahama’s spatial drapes, Bernard Akoi-Jackson’s Spatial Performances, and a few other installations, this phenomenon of experiencing space for itself in sculpture, as in Dialog between Mass and Space (Donkor, 2010) has been silent. Spatiality that contests or defies the conventional anteriority/posteriority, and interiority/exteriority divides and excessive objectification of sculptural experience is fundamentally overlooked.

This objectification of sculpture can be traced to modernity and its autonomy of art. At least, in classical sense, sculpture in habited a space which was included in its meaning (Krauss, 1985: 282). The space was in most cases, part of its intentionality, as well as its exhibition. Spectatorship and audience participations revolved around subjectivities peculiar specific space, and continual pilgrimages take audience who visit classical sites through history to participate in an artistic communion removed from their times (Kersel, 2004). This however should not be confused with the kind of spatiality in African sculpture discussed above, because indigenous African sculptural representations function in a manner similar to mixed media and multimedia representations that conceptually has performance, virtual cum astral hyperlinks and projections to sustain their meanings (Enweazor, 1999). Here, the artistic differences between "temporal events and static objects" in Krauss (1977) are necessary for full understanding of the categories set above. The ultimate removal of some site specific forms into museum spaces all over the world through colonialism and wars as epitomized in the controversial “Elgin Marbles” campaigns (Kersel, 2004; Reppas, 1999; St. Clair, 1998), and Benin and Ashanti expeditions of  late 1890s  (Leighten, 1990) rapture sculpture’s spatiality and usher in a form independent exhibition that only reference their removed contexts. Classically, sculpture became emancipated from its architectural subservience when it began to represent humans instead of gods and mythological figures about 8,000 years ago (Fleming, 1986). It abandoned its caryatid job of architectural parts or decorating its facades (Read, 1964) and went solo; inhabiting everywhere it rested Krauss (1985). Its initial form being anthropomorphic had its  spaces  already  demarcated  in its foremost subject–human. At least, it is evident in the development of the contrapposto, that the reorganization of spaces within the human subject was all that mattered, as well as their psychological linkages to the material and ethereal environment (Benson, 2000). 

The classical rebirth in 14th and 15th centuries canonised objective representations of sculpture in the celebration of humanity. Fiero (1995, 1998) and Fleming (1986) illustrate how in effort to reintegrate classical thought that gave birth to sculptures in western psyche (Benson, 2000), theorized and constructed actualized forms, starting with Da Vinci’s canons and concluding with Michelangelo’s David and Pieta. Since then, even modern sculpture incorporates their postures and representations. Remember that even if these sculptures were site specific, within Jean Baudrillard’s Hyperreality (Baudrillard, 1981), they left Rome for the numerous cathedrals, gardens and sanctuaries around the world through missionaries and colonialism. In such scheme, some of them took on local nature resulting in numerous abstractions; hence, no necessary differentiation from their modern abstractions and autonomies that will ensue 4 centuries after them. Even Michelangelo alone reviewed himself on numerous occasions culminating in a form abstraction of the subject pity. This revisionist tendencies coupled with the intellectual explosions of modernity, the birth of modernist sculpture as monument enters into "its negative condition, a kind of sightlessness, "....functionally placeless and largely self-referential", (Krauss, 1985: 282-284). The 20th century witnessed a variety of development in visual art, space included as an active quality. Given that visual art production includes this active quality, it is not surprising that Frank Stella sees the creation of space as the principal goal of art. He goes on to point out that, “since painters create space, it seems ironic that twentieth century painters had to work so hard to create abstract space in paintings”, Stella (1986 as cited Tyler and Ione, 2001).

Many artist movements experimented varied ways of expressing space but the eruption of cubism marked further explorations of this subject. Cezanne, Pablo Picasso and George Braque set the stage for a renewed investigation of space in art. Adopting an approach of spatial deconstruction (Shlain, 2007; Brunette and Wills 1994), they rejected the mimesis of traditional spatial techniques. Through that, the very concept of artistic space was deconstructed within laws of relativity (Shlain 2007: 120-4, 188-9). Sculpture has been defined, interestingly as limited to space (Howard, 1953); sculpture is material, which has undergone change into object, and its objectivity is synonymous with the material. This assertion is very debatable because of the complexities materiality of space itself, and of the surrounding spaces of the object. Sculptural space, as it has come to mean, does not withdraw, cut itself off from the real normative space, but changes with it in a metamorphosis  of  the  real   space,   making   it   active, dynamic and perceptible. Martin (1981) confirms the phenomenology of sculpture to space metamorphoses and their concomitant audience responses in “physical or spatial withness” (as cited in Irvin, 2013). Some of these articulations are found in works like Anish Kapoor’s (2004-2006) Cloud Gate in which audience respond to the reflections of their own bodies and spatiality of their immediate environment is similar to what Susanne Langer has associated with our “kinetic” sensibilities organised and presented in, and by sculpture, (Langer 1953 as cited in Irvin, 2013). From these awareness stem the broadening of sculpture’s topography in the (re)presentation of ready-mades, lived situations and recently, bio-art, in Marcel Duchamp’s Bicycle Wheel and Fountain (1913, 1917), Tracey Emin’s My Bed (1998), Vanessa Beecroft’s VB series (1998 to 2008), Julia Reodica’s HymNext Project (2004 to 2008, 2007); all looking at spatiality, traced, private, shared or obscured contextually. Indeed, Irvin (2005, 2008) argues that the creation of art “is to express a set of norms governing how [object] art is to be displayed and treated” (as cited in Irvin 2013).  Sculptures’ spatiality and audience experience and interactivity are inseparable; sculpture’s site specificity throughout history is part of its ontology and meaning, and rendering it autonomous by relocation affects its being. Irvin (2013), following discussion of perspectives in Johan Gottfried Herder’s Sculpture: Some Observations on Shape and Form from Pygmalion’s Creative Dream (2002/1778); Rachel Zuckert’s Sculpture and Touch: Herder’s Aesthetics of Sculpture (2009); Robert Hopkins’ Sculpture and Space (2003) and David Martin’s Sculpture and Enlivened Space (1981) alongside myriad of other authors, suggests sculptural interpretations in resemblance through incorporation or inclusion (Hopkins, 2003). 



The study is a practice-based research through studio acts and practices, employing metaphoric representations as reflective practitioners (Sullivan, 2010; 2006; Marshall, 2007; Schon, 2008; Doloughan, 2002) to articulate specific spatio-temporal contexts in sculpture. This puts the study in Graeme Sullivan’s “hybrid third space” to meet its artistic intent and response (Sullivan, 2010: 102-107). Space as explored in the study takes multiplicity of forms, including mimesis, to sculpturally articulate the ubiquitous Ghanaian spatial subjectivities (Sullivan, 2010: 123). The conception of Ghana, notwithstanding its geography and sovereignty is a complexity of post-colonial spatio-temporal relationships that retains much of its pre-colonial and colonial socio-political experiences from which Ghanaians sensibilities emerge (Sullivan, 2010: 70; Schmid; 2008: 29; Lefebvre 1991a: 59; b: 133). In these terms, Ghanaian spatiality is read from the individual and collective, autonomous and shared Ghanaian realities as traces within the quotidian (Lefebvre, 1991a, b). It is also constructed from Euclidean and Cartesian conceptions of space, as well as Lefebvrian reconciliation space and place out of which the Ghanaian experience comes (Merrifield, 1993; Goldberg, 1975). Such space usually incorporates Hyperreality of Bhaktinean Chronotopic Laminated   place   and   space   (Holloway    and    Kneale,    2000; Baudrillard, 1981) as projections and abstractions that produce meanings without the usual politics that seeks to differentiate them (Lefebvre, 1991a, b), incorporating trace as a phenomenon and storing their peculiarities. In simple terms, Euclidean, Newtonian, and Cartesian space tracks one, two and three dimensionalities (geometric shapes and space), with real or rational coordinates, which are spatiality realized through socialization. Real, familiar and lived spaces Douglas Porteus (1976), Tuan (1979), Schmid (2008) and Rief (2017) articulate are within Henri Lefebvre’s Production of Space (1991) and Critique of Everyday Life (1991) in which socially engaged spaces, architectonics, their abstractions and contradictions are not only identified but abstracted; Ghanaian spatial phobias in Lacanian Mirror Stage that abstract space and even negate it as reality. 

In formulating themes on Ghanaian spatial contexts, the study relied on various key texts on population, urbanization, public health and sanitation (Purvis, 2015; World Bank, 2013; Amankrah, 2013; Cudjoe, 2012; Tetteh-Addison, 2012; Owusu, 2012). These backgrounds provided the study its mime by grounding it within specific cultural context (Marshall, 2007: 26; Sullivan, 2010: 133). Authors also sought metaphorical re-interpretations (Marshall, 2007: 31; Doloughan 2002: 64), of GPS/GPRS and cellular/virtual tracking metaphors that render subjects as mobile dots (Lianos and Wood, 2003; Poorthuis and Zook, 2013) in Entangled Spaces (Figure 1) and Dancing Disc (Figure 2). These ideas through studio acts and practices (Sullivan, 2010: 102-107; 2006: 32-33) abstract plinth place/space of conventional sculpture (Krauss, 1985), and render above works as compositions of sculptural forms put together as units. Entangled spaces draw on constellations of human and environmental traffics (Rief, 2017) and chaotic amalgamations (Grosz, 2008), whiles the dancing disc explores autonomous navigations in translation of a disc in successive spatial positions (Anderson, 2013; Poorthuis and Zook, 2013). It is the totality of the movement realized in a settling disc and articulated successively (as in Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase, No 1912) from top to bottom. Studio studies also explored inversion of conventional sculptural mass and space, where the entire mass is rendered as an absent entity (Marshall, 2007; Sullivan, 2006), framed with welded rings of 5 mm metal rods, or bars, or pipes, articulated, merged or thrown together. In Anthill (figure 3), spaces are the visible space (mass), evaporating the mass (space) in the composition in a mass/space dialectics (Schmid, 2008; Irwin, 2004; Holloway and Kneale, 2000; Laferbv, 1991a).  Brain Cell (Figure 4) is a complexity of mass and space, differentiated by mapped shadow of the overhead square pipe construction that sieves and projects spaces in a cartographical representation. The idea of the border constituting space in Euclidian mode becomes virtual and mental. This is because in Brain Cell, the work itself is a suspended die, a filter through which mass and space are projected or cast, for artistic spectatorships. Factors that influenced material choice form and orientations, scales and dimensions of works in the study are virtually traditional (Sullivan, 2010: 123). For instance, the artist’s choice of metal rods, bars and pipes in arc welding technique stems from of the desire for material capable of casting realized forms and also attach itself without deformations (P 133).

The artist looked at ground space occupation as representation (Hopkins, 2003), as well as plinth space for sculptures for the dot (disc/rings) in Entangles Spaces and Dancing Disc. Ideas of enclosures were used for Anthill and Brain Cell, where equivalent enclosed spaces (Lianos and Wood, 2003) for humans, or queen/soldier/worker ant or termite in Anthill. Artistic intents, studio decisions and actions, and exhibition strategies explore transparencies that breach opacity usually associated with conventional sculpture and the creation of “critical artistic encounters” within varied spectatorships for individual spatial economies and politics (Goldberg, 1975; Sullivan, 2006: 27-32; Marshall, 2007: 23). 


Spatio-sculptural redirection

In sculpture, space is as important as the object itself, with the latter, depending on the earlier sculptural idea, form and other contexts. Matter, space, form and content through sensory receptions induce meanings and influence artistic representations of three dimensional ideas. The sculptor takes the world (sculpture in its own right), and through selection, repetition, appropriation and difference invoke sculptural reality (Marshall, 2007; Sullivan, 2006; Krauss, 1977; Goldberg, 1975) actual space; as spaces with heights, widths and depths. These three-dimensional arts may positively or negatively use space as means of revealing content and meaning. However, to create space with space is what most artists seek to do, therefore, the need to empty occupied spaces sculpturally to create meaning (Goldberg, 1975). Space is imperishable, and it is a product that acquires meaning through difference and contexts, of which art is an integral practice (Lefebvre, 1991a). Space as a phenomenon constitute human, socio-cultural,  political and economic relations (1991b), and it is the site and force through and with which artists negotiate ideas and produce meaning in their engagement with today’s world; the creation of, and with space through the sculpture medium (Schmid, 2008: 33; Sullivan, 2010: 123; Marshall, 2007: 31; Dolougha,n 2002: 64). Perhaps awareness and consciousness of spatial practises would lead us to a stronger sculptural experience (Lehtinen 2015: 124; Middleton, 2014: 8; Anderson, 2013: 136-138; Poorthius and Zook, 2013: 3; Olsen, 3013; Pinder, 2005: 385-386; Irwin, 2004: 94; Reif, 2017: 12-13). Everyone has the opportunity to venture into fresh spatial experience and different ways of interpreting the world outside the conventional. The Ghanaian artist is invited to appreciate the varied trends of spatial categories that exist in contemporary practices, and advance thoughts for discussion necessary to the understanding of contemporary Ghanaian spatial subjectivities emanating from our evolution from and into who we are, and aimed at broadening the frontiers of sculpture than as it exists in Ghana today (Deleuze, 1986).

The pre-colonial idea of sculptural space as catalogued anthropologically, has of recent been reverberated by Okui Enwiezor within contemporary art practices, especially in Africa. The situation where space serves only to project mass in sculpture representations, characteristic of western classical and modern approaches has set a mode of mass defining space in most conceptual and contemporary art. Ghanaian sculptural representations through formal art pedagogies and practices have gotten its fair share colonial vestiges, nudging indigenous artistic paths and influencing contemporary practices (Sei’dou 2014a, b). Enweazor and Okeke-Agulu (2009) have catalogued works as representing contemporary African art practices, in  which space, actual or ethereal features prominently. Advocacies in contemporary theory and cultural geography (Lefebvre, 1991a, b; Olsen, 2013; Pinder, 2005; Albero and Stimson, 1999; Atkinson, 2005; Papastergiadis, 2010) suggest means by which artists could navigate contemporary landscapes into prevailing spatial dialogues and practices. Some prevailing sculptural practices in Ghanaian art point to this awareness. The corpus of counter-top works by El Anatsui’s which traces collapsible spaces and transparent mass in Gawu (2010) and of the walled city of Notsie in Togo respectively, the Berlin wall and Wetstern Wall in Jerusalem; and entire repertoire of Amenuke (2012); Ibrahim Mahama’s Spatial burlap drapes, and Bernard Akoi-Jackson’s post-colonial performative identity navigations connect multiplicity of socio-cultural and spatio-temporal subjectivities. Distinctively, explorations in Donkor (2010), through Deleuzian and Foucauldian metaphors explore contemporary Ghanaian spatial encounters in conventional sculpture, opening up Ghanaian sculptural practices for discussion. Making spatial sculpture premised on the limits and projection of materiality of space and acknowledgement of spaces in sculpture compositions within the contemporary needs consideration (Reif, 2017; Lehtinen, 2015). While there are sculptural representations involving spaces, few artists locally have engaged space as absent presence directly, as context and materiality for sculpture. Understanding such explorations by sculptures’ audience in Ghana would go a long way in providing necessary impetus for artistic engagements.

Presently, any attempt at explanation of space in Ghanaian youth ends up with a pseudo-scientific definition, even within the arts. This is not to suggest that, this phenomenon is at variance with the focus of this paper, but a further bodily awareness in necessary (Lefebvre, 1991a, b; Anderson, 2013; Pinder, 2005; Irwin, 2004). Awareness of the Ghanaian in the meaning of her spatiality needs grooming for onward projection into other fields of study, especially, emerging film and theatre arts. Our bodily existences and the connections they make with the environment, more importantly, abstractions of our common spatial and virtual projections in our creative thinking (Lefebvre, 1991b).


The paper recounts sculptural experiments that sought to evacuate mass within the conventional sculpture experience. It navigates the Euclidean, Newtonian, Cartesian, and Lefebvrain conceptions of space to locate the Ghanaian spatial complexities, and through spatial and virtual tracking metaphors, studio praxis construct combinations of spatial mappings whose combinations dialectically create another  sculptural experience  based on space. These sculptures are mimetic in their spatial representations, yet abstract visually, and only make sense contextually. It therefore, relies on spectators’ understanding of peculiar spatial discourse articulated in specific work (Goldberg, 1975: 254). This calls for awareness of home-grown spatial subjectivities, and what they mean within the global context (Wiredu, 1996). Pedagogically, the value of spatial reconsiderations in our sculptural schemes, especially in the teaching and learning in art methodologies including ideas in psycho-geographical drift (Anderson, 2013; Pinder, 2005) and heterotopia should be treated with urgency.  There is the need to initiate a gradual redirection of sculptural curricula to incorporate spatial methodologies through the awareness of our peculiar subjectivities as, and alternative to the understanding of space in the physical sciences, to include daily connections and engagements with space. Space is political (Olsen, 2013; Kipfer, et al., 2008: 15; Schmid, 2008: 33; Pinder, 2005: 385-386, 404; Irwin, 2004; Middleton 2014: 8; Reif. 2017: 8). Understanding individual and collective, personal and shared, everyday symbolic and cultural relationships to space would yield tons of benefits artistically (Scoppetta 2014; Olsen, 2013). The most important thing about space is that, the present spatial relationships are not accidental (Lefebvre, 1991b), they have been negotiated historically cumulatively, and it is as tangible in its materiality as it is mentally (Foucault, 1982). Issues of space have been explored in art variously, with specific spatial attention during the postmodern turn. Documents from like-studies in spatial engagements and metaphors in artists’ practices locally would be of great resource in this direction. Perhaps, readings in Harrison (2003) and Alberro and Stimson (1999) Essays on Conceptual Art and Conceptual Art: A Critical Anthology respectively, would be great resources in negotiating our present densities.


The authors have not declared any conflict of interests.


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