I’m trying to remember how I imagined the Gordian Knot as a child. I don’t know when I heard about it for the first time, perhaps it was mentioned in some radio programme in the mid-70s, and then I must have asked my father about it. I’m sure he told me what Alexander the Great did, obviously, the version when he sliced it in half with a single sword-stroke. Now that I am recalling this story, it has become easier to visualise the knot itself. I believe its diameter wasn’t bigger than a meter or a meter and a half, it was made of rope, maybe brown or drab. It must have looked like the climbing rope in my school gym, the whole bunch of which, tied together by the PE teacher, making up an ancient grade knot. In my imagination the Gordian knot was lying on the ground, this is clear, there was no ox-cart or any sanctuary, just somehow on the stone courtyard of the palace. Then Alexander the Great appeared, wearing mail chain over his tunic, his helmet open, and slashed the great pile of rope. He was not hacking it or filing it, but whoosh—cut it like a martial artist. In my mind everybody was standing around him in awe, some even asked why nobody had thought of this solution before, and why everybody had always been trying to untangle the knot, not getting anywhere with it. I don’t think I ever wondered as a child why that knot was there in the courtyard at all. It must have been some witty act of the Gods, I thought, being an educated child who watched the Odysseus series on TV at the age of six. Péter Nemes’s Gordian Knot is not at all like the one I imagined: it’s made of wood and some metal, and it obviously wasn’t meant to look like the original one described in the legends. His Gordian knot is also the product of imagination, like the one I imagined as a child, but his imagination is of a sculptor’s: it works similarly to the child’s, playing with materials, forms, masses and environments—but a sculptor can also imagine structures. While in my mind the knot existed as a huge mass, the sculptor must have been able to visualize a transparent structure in his mind, something three-dimensional—at least that’s how I imagine it. I don’t know, of course, what the sculptor’s mind is like, though I can imagine a brain, which I have only seen in pictures, and in models in the biology lab. Even when I imagine a brain, I can’t see it from the inside, but I imagine it as an intricate knot. In fact, the sculpture of Péter Nemes could just as well be a model of the brain with orbits of thought—it’s not more difficult to imagine than the Gordian knot. Or I can associate it with a Möbius strip, which also resembles me to an untieable knot. Now that I have got tangled up in this with my sharp mind, I shall stop for a second. Let us enumerate what we can see. On the one hand, there is a sculpture, a strip, a model. There is the brain of the sculptor, luckily from the outside only. If we close our eyes, there are plenty of images of ropes, courtyards, biology labs—these have all just been created. If we open our eyes again, and place our imagination, like a film strip, over reality, we can see that the two images are indeed blending into each other. Standing here, staring at the sculpture we can see that we aren’t much different from those once standing around the knot, spectators who might have just been waiting for Alexander the Great to solve the logical as well as the historical-political problem. We are looking at this knot-construction on the ground, we can see many things in it, metaphors and similes of sculpture, but above all, it appears to us as an element of the flow of sculpting history. The image of the sculptor bending, fitting and composing wood centuries or thousands of years ago is blending with that of today’s sculptor. The image of the sculpture is then blending with that of abstract works of the twentieth century, like the bent plastic sculptures of Naum Gabo, or even the repetitive minimalist square constructions of Sol Lewitt. The great question is indeed likely to be related to abstraction. How abstract is the Gordian Knot, how, and more importantly, what direction can it trespass the boundaries between reality and imagination? How abstract can a sculpture be that shows something imaginary, something that might have once existed? How abstract is the figure of the legendary maker of the knot, which is likely to have become visible to us through the historical figure of Alexander the Great? I could continue with the list of questions tangled into each other… But instead: Snip!

József Mélyi

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