A few years ago a friend gave me Woman in the Dunes by Kōbō Abe. I loved it. I still have very strong visual impressions of it in my mind. Images of a human, rational, geometric construction assailed by the formless: a slow infiltration, penetration. Later on, I saw Hiroshi Teshigahara’s film adaptation (1964) and I realised that I had almost entirely missed the sensuality and cruelty of the strange relationship that develops between jailer and prisoner. Or rather, I had unconsciously transposed them to the descriptions of the landscapes. When Laurence De Leersnyder and Zoë Paul presented their plans for their combined show at NuN to me, images from the film Woman in the Dunes immediately came to mind, mixed with my recollections of reading the book.
‘What the snow does in the north the sand does in the south.’¹ There is something of an imagined elsewhere, an implacable, on-going process. That of the transfictional story by Kōbō Abe, that of the Asian saga in La Légende des siècles, that of radical acts, two sculptural acts conceived as an echo of history and an evolving Berlin, with all that that presupposes in terms of fertile shortcuts: the traces of war, the Pergamon Museum, the Holocaust memorial, recent architecture, etc.
There is something of a ‘disenchantment, a mourning for the loss of the ideals of perfection and equilibrium through two historical references: Greek classicism and American minimalism,’ they wrote to me. And to achieve this, a chiasmus – like Victor Hugo’s famous line that serves as the exhibition’s title: two interdependent pieces, a single proposition.
Zoë Paul has imagined the recreation of a figure from ancient statuary using a metal armature that she will cover with fresh cement. Laurence De Leersnyder will pack garden soil into wooden formwork of similar dimensions to sculpture bases. The cement will stick to the armature, but it will also drip onto the floor. When the wooden formwork is removed, fragile pillars will be left standing. Everything will play out here in an intermingling of materials and processes. ‘The formwork is removed from the concrete and entrusted to the soil. The concrete covers the ground like soil, the soil forms an architectural element like concrete. The concrete runs in an expressive way, the soil is held in position in a geometric form. A dialogue emerges between the two pieces created in situ. An industrial material that is applied by hand, mass production using a natural material. A sculpture without a base and a base without a sculpture. An empirical act and a systematic act. A formless, unconstrained work, and a minimalist, rigorous one. A fall, a rising’ (Laurence De Leersnyder & Zoë Paul)
‘What the snow does in the north the sand does in the south.’ The image of the entrance to the pit where the house is buried in the Woman of the Dunes, a black hole sucking in the desert… this image in turn disappearing under that of fresh concrete flowing over a metal armature… garden soil gradually added to wooden formwork… and waiting for that of the exhibition.
(Translation: Bernard Wooding)
 Victor Hugo, La Légende des siècles, volume 1, Paris, GF-Flammarion, 1979, p. 142