The material as co-artist – Visiting Roger Hiorns’ ‘Seizure’

This Saturday, I managed to visit three art exbitions in five hours. The first one was Roger Hiorns’ ‘Seizure’, which can be found in an abandoned council estate near Elephant & Castle. Hiorns had a section of flat number 157 Harper Road waterproofed and filled it with a silly amount of warm copper sulphate. After the solution had cooled down, the liquid was removed and left an astonishing growth of blue crystals on the walls.

After finding the location of the artwork, the visitor is directed to a room in which to swap shoes for wellies. When I arrived, there were only children’s sizes left, so I entertained myself with reading through the accompanying leaflets and a a book while waiting for adult boots.

To my delight, there was a leaflet for teacher’s which outlined activities under the four headlines ‘transformation’, ‘chance’, ‘architecture’ and ‘familiar+alien’. Wow! The first section considers the artist as transformer, the second section talks about the materials as creators of surprises. Activity 3 includes introducing ‘strange and unexpected creatures and forms’ to home-made architectural models and 4 considers co-habitation with ‘non-human settlers’ we would be happy or unhappy about if they decided to co-habitate with us. Brilliant! I will start going through the activities as soon as my PhD is finished…

Finally, a pair of appropriate boots arrives attached to a group of three girls. Equipped with the appropriate gear, I get in the queue. I read some more about Roger Hiorns’ work method. He comes across as having a very intense (but also strangely detached) relationship with his materials. I think ‘co-artist’ would probably be a good description, just going by the interview in the exhibition leaflet. For instance, in ‘Seizure’ he wanted to leave some of the creative direction to the material: ‘I would put together some kind of structure which would then grow into something else.’ This giving up of control may bring about (aesthetic?) failure, but this risk is part of this relationship for him. Cutting materials off from their ‘real use’ and ‘understanding yourself through it’ is another important part. Reading this makes me even more curious about the outcome…

After about half an hour, it is finally my turn to enter the ‘cave’ (rubber gloves optional!). And it was well worth the wait: the growth is amazing and combined with an otherworldly blue colour (the floor is blue-turquoise) it feels like entering a magician’s experimentation chamber.

Because there is such a long queue for the wellies and to get in, I do not feel comfortable staying inside too long, although the space is so mesmerizing it makes you forget about everything outside for at least five minutes! I quickly take a few pictures, knowing they won’t be able to truly reflect the atomosphere of the artwork.

If you want to see ‘Seizure’ for yourself, it is still open until 30 November. Directions can be found here.

Opening times are 6 – 30 November
11:00-17:00 Thursday to Sunday
Closed Monday to Wednesday

PS: for those you will be unable to see the piece, here is a video about it on CNN.

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