Interview with Roger Hiorns
You took over a derelict modernist flat for the project Seizure, covering the interior of that space with blue crystals. Recently, you installed two jet engines on the roof of the Art Institute of Chicago. You’ve used brains as a material, and coated lighting units with your own semen, to illuminate the Parthenon during the Athens Biennale. These materials are very literal, and yet they become charged with all sorts of associations and potential meaning. How do you see this working?
‘What I’m interested in is being quite deliberate and ugly in the way that I’m using materials. Using the brain matter, for instance, is quite clumsy and direct. These things would be considered within the art world as ready-mades, but I think that we can also see that basically we’ve developed away from the ready-made. We have objects in the world that we can actually reapply a use to. There’s something subversive and problematic here, which comes from a more apocalyptic and dystopian-minded horizon, though that’s less interesting to me than the idea that the reasons why these objects specifically exist might change by actually misusing them.
For instance, for the Art Institute of Chicago, I was very interested in using the jet engines from an old Boeing ‘Looking Glass’ long-range surveillance aircraft; a very specific surveillance aircraft, which flew around the world hundreds of times and continuously surveyed a specific period in American history. The plane was a symbol and a very necessary object for a certain sense of liberalism in America to survive. So, for me to put them in the context of the Art Institute of Chicago was to suggest that these objects on the roof (the jet engines) allowed for the existence of the objects underneath – the art objects – that had been made during the period that these surveillance aircraft engines had been active. You could have Rothko making his paintings simply because these aircraft were in the sky, and there was something interesting with that. Something quite direct.’
There is an issue about art being a space of experience in which interpretation goes on, and your work seems to trouble that. It doesn’t want to be politely interpreted or commented upon. It seems to me that the density and opacity of many of your works are very resistant to that.
‘Well, the impenetrability of the work itself is something which is also very useful, but you can’t just suggest that something has come from the planet Mars and say that its impenetrability and its oblique strategy are actually going to satisfy anybody’s needs. You need to have some kind of projection into what you think the work is going to become after the event. You want to pre-empt the present, but also the future of the work itself, and I think that’s the important thing; that what an artist should actually try to achieve is to pre-empt a future for the artwork to exist in.
READ FURTHER IN METROPOLIS M No 6-2010
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