After LeWitt, Part 1: Diverse

HD Video with sound: 5 minutes.

In 1977, Sol LeWitt conceived the piece “Five cubes placed on twenty-five squares with either corners or sides touching”. His piece was instantiated by placing five indistinguishable cubes on an evenly spaced 5×5 grid. A book produced in 1978 purports to show all possible placements for five contiguous cubes with corners touching, and all possible placements for five contiguous cubes with sides touching.

I have long been fascinated by this piece, and wanted to instantiate it for myself. Unfortunately, LeWitt’s piece is under-described, and many assumptions were made in manifesting it. For example, was the evenly spaced 5×5 grid part of the instruction from LeWitt to the makers of the piece?

It may have been an assumption on everyone’s part.

Another assumption is that the cube layouts are only sides or only corners touching. This seems to be described in the title, but English is slippery. As stated, it seems as though as long as the cubes have some (no matter if it’s sides or corners) contiguity, the direction would be satisfied. Then there’s the assumption that all five cubes are contiguous. And there is no mention that the cubes are indistinguishable. Perhaps that is implied by Minimalism; where each “cube” is the idealized and perfect.

How many more combinations would there be if even one cube was different?

After LeWitt, Part 1 considers this question. If one cube is different from the others (and each face of it is indistinguishable, e.g. a solid green cube), then the diversity of the positions increases 5-fold. So, instead of 251 options, there are 251×5 = 1255 possible arrangements.

As I was photographing each arrangement (for a total of 1506 photographs), I kept thinking, “Why? Why am I torturing myself this way?” It’s because the project wasn’t finished after photographing only the “LeWitt” version. There needed to be more (and there needs to be still more but later for that). The whole point of LeWitt is the idealized work, the idealized manifestation, the idealized world. But the real world is messy; “identical” things rarely are; and we need to question our underlying assumptions.

The score for the video time lapse is music that was created by using a text-to-music generator. The main track is text from the 1965 letter from LeWitt to Eva Hesse, exhorting her to “Do The Work”; the under track is the list of filenames from the diverse cubes.