Robert Morris: Passageway (1961)


Robert Morris: Forty-seven years ago I arrive in New York City and begin graduate studies in art history. Gradually I begin to make objects. The process of making accelerates and interest in art history lags. This rise of creativity is accompanied by increasing personal unhappiness. Marriage collapses. A certain mental energy and obsessive, single-minded concentration, bordering on a kind of possession, is addressed to questioning the premises of sculpture. This goes along with an increasing negativity toward and incapacity for personal relations. I move further into a kind of semi-autistic space which excludes the other. Such a space is familiar from childhood where it was constantly denied. Only the inanimate object is alive for me in these years, and making objects becomes my bulwark against the threat of the other, and every other is regarded as threatening, especially those who would try to get close to me. But I want more than the object. I want a totalising, enclosing space within which I exist with the object. I want to fashion a conceptual, mental, psychological and physical space. I want to make a world within which I alone move amongst my objects. Reading Wittgenstein’s remarks in the Tractatus that ‘I am my world. (The microcosm),’ my heart skips a beat. I make a 50-foot long plywood Passageway, which narrows as it curves. Two arcs of a circle converging. I wedge my body between the narrowing walls, which curve ahead and out of sight. I am suspended, embraced and held by my world. I listen to the faint sound of the hidden mechanical heartbeat I have installed over the ceiling of Passageway. There is nothing to look at here in this curving space which diminishes to zero. In this blind space whatever constitutes the ‘I’ of my subjectivity evaporates and I think of that other remark of Wittgenstein: ‘The subject does not belong to the world: rather, it is a limit of the world.’  Others who visit Passageway leave messages written on the walls such as ‘Fuck you too.’ I repaint the grey walls once a week. In these years my large insecurities are guarded and held closely. Perhaps they are the sources and engine driving my capacity to create. Never again will I lose myself in such blind and self-sufficient spaces. Never after am I as unhappy and as exhilarated as in these years.

via Simon Grant interviews Robert Morris | Tate &
±1961: La expansión de las artes, Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid