SEIZURE: Roger Hiorns And The Art Of Disappearing

By Kim Patrick | 09 October 2008
a photo of a man in jeans and grewy sweatshirt standing against a sparkling blue background

Roger Hiorns with SEIZURE. An Artangel / Jerwood Commission. Photo © Nick Cobbing

SEIZURE is the current major sculptural project from British artist Roger Hiorns and arts comissioning charity Artangel. Here he talks to Kim Patrick about social artwork, the viewing public and why above all else he wants to make himself disappear.

151-189 Harper Road is a social housing failure. Like similar buildings grouped to form similar estates, its grey concrete blocks are the small, often empty containers that in their facelessness have come to represent a plethora of social problems lived out in architectural mistakes.

By the end of this year the former homes of Harper Road will be demolished and with them the momentary structural integrity brought by Roger Hiorn’s art installation and crystallisation, Seizure.

Seizure continues the Artangel tradition of commissioning artists who will through an expansion of scale and sphere take their practice to a seemingly impossible level and make a popular, unexpected contribution to the landscape of public artwork.

Hiorns’ crystallisation allows Seizure to directly consult with its environment and methodically distinguish itself from the spatial indifference common to certain examples of public art or "plop art" which the artist explains is often "just a piece of art that happens to be outside," which he characterises as having a "lack of the social."

a photo of a woman peering through an aperture in a room covered in a glowing blue covering

Roger Hiorns, SEIZURE. An Artangel / Jerwood Commission. Photo © Nick Cobbing

Seizure is not typically social. It is not an artwork for anyone and in its material connection with Harper Road there is also a simultaneous disconnection with its immediate community of neighbours.

Hiorns is not interested in metaphorical reflections or resolutions Seizure, he says, “is not a museum piece. It is more real than that. I don’t think people can deal with the faceless ambivalence that objects lend to the environment.”

For Hiorns, the process of attaching itself to the reality of its dispensable environment means the work achieves equilibrium with what is artistic and what is social.

The work has certainly created an original and therefore unfamiliar space. The experience begins when in anticipation of entering the site visitors are given wellingtons and gloves to wear only to find neither Hiorns nor Seizure directly dictate a specific response or set of behaviours.

But maybe its life expectancy, primitive immediacy or bejewelled aesthetic do. Many visitors have claimed the artwork for themselves, literally grabbing a condemned piece of crystal to take away.

a detail of an art installation showing pillars covered in a rough blue covering

Roger Hiorns, SEIZURE. An Artangel / Jerwood Commission. Photo © Nick Cobbing

While this type of interaction is of course strictly discouraged by Artangel, Seizure was always going to be a vulnerable artwork destined for ruin. Hiorns explains, “The viewing public is always a paradox for me. In a way I make artworks in spite of people. The people who come to visit the work are fundamentally the people who are destroying it.”

Footfall alone implicates the visitor in Seizure’s demise: ‘There is a purity that crystallisation has and then it doesn’t anymore. As soon as the first person goes into that room it doesn’t really exist any longer.’

Hiorns is not sentimental about his work. Exercising a clinical detachment he says he would prefer to not be seen as Seizure’s artist. “My work comes from an impetus to take myself out of the equation,” he says. “You write yourself out of your own history. This thing didn’t necessarily have an author’.

a deatail showing blue crystals

Roger Hiorns, SEIZURE. An Artangel / Jerwood Commission. Photo © Nick Cobbing

Hiorns’ approach is however too investigative to assume complete anonymity. Adopting a philosophical position rather than an obvious artistic one he reveals a desire to de-materialise himself: “The artist wants to put himself to the front, I want to make myself disappear,” he says.

Whether wistfully philosophical or brutally realistic, Hiorns plans to continue indulging his compulsion to eradicate himself as artist but what, following on from Seizure, may prove to be the most developed aspect of his absence is the reality determined by the visitor’s presence.

Seizure is open to visitors at 151-189 Harper Road, London until November 30.

To find out more about the work Artangel visit: www.artangel.org.uk

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