Total Environment (Sculpture) as a Symbology: The Mesological Study of the Axe Majeur in Cergy-Pontoise


  • Yi-Ting Wang



Axe Majeur, environmental sculpture, environmental symbology, mediance, milieu, new cities in France, total environment.


In Cergy-Pontoise, the artist Dani Karavan is commissioned to conceive the three-kilometer linear path named Axe Majeur (Main Axis), connecting the city center and the vast riverside. Instead of a work of art to contemplate, Karavan builds 12 stations in succession and in the form of instruments with which people are equipped to measure and to process the existent environmental data and to find their own interpretation of the site. By making factual information measurable and translatable into cultural connotations, Karavan’s work implies a mesological point of view from which osmosis between the sculpture and the site invalidates the opposite physical/phenomenal. The paper studies this method based on the notion mediance proposed by the geographer Augustin Berque and on a field survey. Two principles constitute the method: First, Karavan invents a sculptural metrology functioning in the way of the perceptive calibration system. Secondly, the Axe Majeur shows a “total environment” which means not only 12 parts as a single unit but also the inseparable relationship of Karavan’s environment (art) with the whole geographical environment. Each part annotates the signs left behind after Earth’s motion (e.g. topography, geothermal energy) and after cultural activities (e.g. orchard, view of Paris) and turns these signs into the basis on which imagination could be formed and new meaning could arise. By articulating historical and spatial dimension with an environmental symbology, the Axe Majeur constitutes an innovative urban planning method which moves away from an international-vernacular (modernism) or historical-ahistorical (postmodernism) debate.


Article received: April 2, 2019; Article accepted: May 25, 2019; Published online: September 15, 2019; Original scholarly paper

Author Biography

Yi-Ting Wang

University Paris VIII Vincennes-Saint-Denis

Yi-Ting Wang is a Ph.D. student of the University of Paris VIII Vincennes-Saint-Denis in France. She studies history and aesthetics of contemporary sculpture and focuses especially on environmental art and urban sculpture in France from the 1960s to the 1980s, on the basis of the sculpture Axe Majeur made by Dani Karavan in Cergy-Pontoise. Considering the relationship between sculpture and environment allows to clarify the meaning-appearance operation from a historical perspective and hence to think about the potential of space at the crossroads of real, imagination and symbolism. Through a multidisciplinary research, Yi-Ting Wang provides reflections on today’s urban aesthetic issues.


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How to Cite

Wang, Y.-T. (2019). Total Environment (Sculpture) as a Symbology: The Mesological Study of the Axe Majeur in Cergy-Pontoise. AM Journal of Art and Media Studies, (19), 45–58.