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Experience and the Artefact: Minimalism in the Work of Maria Montessori and Donald Judd

Part 1 Dissertation 2005
Raphael Pennekamp
London Metropolitan University | UK
This dissertation asserts and will work out a similarity holding between the „Red Rods“ (ca. 1910) by Maria Montessori and “Untitled” (1969) by Donald Judd - both being a series of repeated units whose length increases in increments reifying a mathematical sequence.

Without neglecting the fact that education and art are two entirely different systems of communication I will explore the relations between the work of Montessori and Judd beyond the appearance of the objects; by making evident similarities as well as differences I will locate them in a larger context.

Montessori and Judd both use repetition and reduction of characteristics to focus the recipient on a particular aspect, which Montessori referred to as “the meaning inherent in the material”.

The objects’ “inherent meaning” becomes present through experience as soon as the recipient engages with them, making them “directly accessible to the viewer without the need of intermediary interpreters”, as Rosalind E. Krauss says. In Montessori’s concept of education the immediacy between the object and the recipient enables children to work with sensory materials in a self-determined way, alone or in small groups. This independence has implications for the relations between teachers und pupils, but also on the environment where things are arranged so that they are accessible for the children physically as well as intellectually.

The inhabited environment is directly related to a particular way of working - and moreover a ‘way of life’ in the work of Donald Judd: He chose a particular way of living in the remoteness of Marfa that manifests in the inhabitation of his environments where he collected and carefully arranged art and objects of everyday life. Using Montessori’s and Judd’s ideas of environing as reference points the third chapter explores how minimalism understood as an attitude could render into architecture in a holistic and a-literal way on the level of thinking and experience rather than pure appearance.


Raphael Pennekamp

Raphael's meticulous and understated method fits the subject. Juxtapositions are so deftly handled that they seem to be there before you are aware they were being considered. The experiment with the Piero painting is ingenious; likewise the comparison of what is conventionally called minimalism in architecture with the architectural settings Judd favours. In fact that is my favourite part of the essay, so sly, so uninsistent. Sources in philosophy are well introduced and claims are never exaggerated. It is a beautifully made piece of work, like one of Judd’s sculptures.

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