Sigma: Cartography of Learning 1969–1983
Art Encounters

The SIGMA collective spearheaded one of the most ambitious pedagogical experiments in art, design and architecture in late-20th-century Europe. Founded in 1969 in Timișoara by artists Ștefan Bertalan, Constantin Flondor, Ioan Gaita, Elisei Rusu, Doru Tulcan and mathematician Lucian Codreanu, SIGMA’s artistic concept was driven by their interests in systems thinking, visual communication, advanced technology, early 20th-century constructivism, conceptualism, and radical education. As a comprehensive platform, SIGMA’s practice became an influential model for a diverse array of practitioners in art, design and architecture.

This exhibition retraces SIGMA’s process-based approach to art in relationship to the theories of learning they tested at Timișoara High School of Arts from 1969 to 1983, extended to the School of Architecture (1970–1981) by Bertalan and Flondor and to the Electrotechnical Faculty (1971–1972) by Codreanu and Gaita. The strong interdisciplinary character of SIGMA’s work, which juxtaposed diverse theoretical references—constructivism, cybernetics, bionics, mathematics, structuralism, semiotics, psychoanalysis, and Taoist physics—marked a significant detour in the traditional Romanian institutional stance of the time. SIGMA fostered a more nuanced and experiential type of curriculum in art, product design and architecture, echoing the visionary pedagogy of the Bauhaus, Paul Klee, and Buckminster Fuller. SIGMA re-imagined the school as a relational and situational site, where education would be a continuous process of learning and open-ended experimentation.

The exhibition also asserts that SIGMA’s pedagogical principles remain relevant today, considering the flexible boundaries they developed between educator and artist, teacher and student, between institutional space and nature, art object and its context. The exhibition culminates in a workshop in which participants enact different formats and themes of SIGMA practice and creative pedagogy for contemporary study. Seeking to contextualise and reread SIGMA legacy from today’s educational and cultural realities, the workshop will generate a collective manual, a possible contemporary reinterpretation of the phenomenon of SIGMA as collaborators, educators, and interdisciplinary artistic practitioners.