Stanley Brouwn emerged as an artist in Amsterdam during a period in the 1960's when the city's art scene was heavily influenced by the Fluxus art movement. But in stark contrast to anarchic qualities of the movement's protagonists, Brouwn was attracted to the methodical simplicity of conceptualism, in particular the nature of measurement and how it is used to represent reality.
In the present work, Brouwn investigates the visual as well as the physical properties of measurement by placing eight aluminum sticks and plates on a flat surface. The dimensions of these sheets are determined by a different unit of measurement, some familiar and still in use, some not. Thus, Brouwn contrasts a metric meter with an imperial foot, with the length of a human step and an ell - an ancient form of measurement equivalent to the length of a man's arm, from the elbow to the tip of his fingers that was commonly used in Europe until the 18th century.
Chosen to represent Belgium at the 1982 Venice Biennale, Brouwn's interest in the poetry of measurement has mainly focused on measurement in relation to the human body, either his own or those of friends, acquaintances or at times complete strangers. One of his most celebrated series was conceived after comparing the paces and distance of people he observed walking in the street using different systems of measurement. By focusing specifically on the measurements of his own body (Brouwn often references his own height, the length of his stride, or the tracing of his route while walking through a city) he introduces a human element into what has always been regarded as fixed and constant. These habitual obsessions with geography, distance and direction, scale, measure and dimension are all recorded by the artist in the meticulous notes and records which he makes about his everyday movements in turn providing him with the source material for much of his work. By producing physical manifestations of what are, essentially arbitrary units of measurement, Brouwn combines two very distinct and seemingly contradictory phenomena and produces a graceful and aesthetically beautiful piece of work that questions the nature of one of the fundamentals of modern life.