Spencer Finch. Fifteen Stones (Ryōan-Ji) - Fundació Mies van der Rohe

Spencer Finch. Fifteen Stones (Ryōan-Ji)

Fundació Mies van der Rohe  and Nordenhake Gallery present “Fifteen stones (Ryōan-ji)” by Spencer Finch.

The program of artistic interventions at the Mies van der Rohe Pavilion generates hybridization between artistic disciplines, contributing to the dissemination of architectural culture, stimulating debate and critical reflection, and generating new views on the answers that architecture gives to the challenges that society faces.

Ryōan-ji, “The Temple of the Dragon at Peace”, is located in Kyoto and evokes its famous karesansui (zen garden), considered one of the masterpieces of Japanese culture. On a surface of white gravel of 25x10m, almost the same dimensions as the pond of the Pavilion, fifteen stones are arranged in such a way that it is not possible to see them at the same time, whatever the position of the observer. This abstract composition of stones in space that encourages meditation is open to interpretation, in the same way as Fifteen Stones. The proposal also refers to the links between the Modern Movement and specifically the work of Mies van der Rohe, and the Japanese precedent. Direct connections between the German architect’s way of thinking and working and the philosophical and conceptual basis of Japanese culture have seldom been proposed. This intervention allows us to reflect on the most lyrical aspects of the work of Mies van der Rohe and one of the most outstanding materials of the Pavilion, stone, in this case in its natural state and establishing a dialogue with the cut, polished and hung travertine that forms the walls, the pavement and the bench from which to observe the composition.

Spencer Finch produces work in a wide variety of mediums, including watercolor, photography, glass, electronics, video and fluorescent lights. He deals with the elusive concepts of memory and perception through light installations. Some of his most well-known works include The River That Flows Both Ways (New York High Line Park) and Trying To Remember the Color of the Sky on That September Morning (National September 11 Memorial & Museum).

“The Ryōan-ji Garden in Kyoto and the Mies van der Rohe Pavilion in Barcelona are two of my favorite places in the world. In spite of their many differences, to me they are incredibly similar, in terms of how they generate thought about being a human seeing and moving through space. Wittgentstein said “Remember the impression one gets from good architecture, that it expresses thought. It makes one want to respond with a gesture” (Culture and Value, University of Chicago Press, 1984) and I find that when I am in either of these places my brain works in overdrive, trying to comprehend the space; at the Pavilion, the relationship between indoors and outdoors and the structure within the site and in Ryōan-ji with the stones in relationship with one another and with a larger metaphorical landscape. Both of these places are deeply human, they are about feeling oneself as a physical, living being in relationship to the world and also about a gargantuan achievement of profound abstract thought, almost like discovering a complex mathematical theorem. By dropping a version of Ryōan-ji into the reflecting pool of the Pavilion, by being able to see these two miracles of humanity next to each other, I am hoping that my brain will explode.”

Spencer Finch




Opening 27 September

With the collaboration:

In the frame of:


Photo: Anna Mas