the nominal three (to William of Ockham), 1963
cool white fluorescent light
fluorescent bars: 243.8 cm installed vertically
National Gallery of Canada (no. 15811)
© Estate of Dan Flavin / ARS (New York) / SODRAC (Montréal)
In his title, Flavin pays tribute to William of Ockham, a 14th-century English philosopher who argued that reality exists solely in individual things, while universals are merely abstract ideas. The philosophical principle still known as "Ockham's Razor" is based upon his original maxim: "It is vain to do with more what can be done with fewer". In this installation, Flavin reinforces Ockham's proposition by using only the minimum number of ordinary fluorescent fixtures needed to establish a series, that is (1) (1+1) (1+1+1), and create a sufficient play of light and shadows on the wall behind and in the surrounding space.