The exhibition design of Sumer and the Modern Paradigm was the product of bureaucratic and compositional paroxysms.

Security and conservation requirements demand specific measures for each piece included in an exhibition. We decided to comply with the legal reality of each lender, so that as few interferences as possible occurred. The pieces were grouped together in shapeless receptacles, which contained books, magazines, postcards and lithographs, and on abstract surfaces, on which more receptacles sat, which contained sculptures, cylinder seals and figures. Bureaucracies crystallised as groupings scattered across the rooms; basically: tables and boxes.

Faced with the evidence, we decided to use the Modulor measurements, more so out of irony than conviction. We applied the red and blue series to as many elements as possible: the perimeter of the boxes and tables was 2.26 x 1.13 x 0.86 metres and any variations also obeyed the Modulor, the wall panels replicated the table surfaces, and the acrylic cabinets’ dimensions were based on the same measurement system. The aim was not to conjugate a harmonious compositional unit based on the golden proportions, but rather to create a feeling of strangeness. The elements married together melancholically, suggesting similarities and differences, and reverberated sordidly in the space.

In 1961, Robert Morris created Box for standing and Untitled (Cabinet for standing). Both sculptures consisted of a container, with or without a door, that confined the outline of his own upright body. In the artist’s absence, the sculptures – despite their abstract geometry and vulgar appearance – still referred to him; they took on a vicarious corporeality, an eerie lack of presence.

There is nothing stopping us from seeing Sumer and the Modern Paradigm as a great set of Russian dolls. A figure encased by the architecture of the rooms, the exhibition elements and the pieces on display. In the hypothetical centre would be the seminal, inscrutable figure that determines the outline of all the shells that come after. Circumscribed by a table, a box or a cabinet is the true absent fetish: a handsome, six-foot-tall man – a policeman, for example.