In 2008 I ventured to the London district of Elephant & Castle to see the art installation “Seizure”.
Stepping off the train I felt a world away from the London art scene, in a noisy, run-down area that (without being too disparaging) was most notable for its greyness, bleakness and general lack of beauty in the traditional sense. After an hour of getting lost and clutching to our handbags, amidst the quiet courtyard of a derelict flat complex, we found a queue of people outside a single flat containing what turned out to be one of the most viscerally exciting installations I have seen.
Roger Hiorns “Seizure” was formed by pumping 75,000 litres of copper sulphate solution into an abandoned ‘60s council flat. The result: a magical cavern of glistening blue crystals.
[“Seizure” in 2008 © Roger Hiorns]
In 2013 “Seizure” was removed from its home in Elephant & Castle and relocated 150 miles away to allow for the demolition of the flats it was housed in.
Last weekend I visited “Seizure” in its new home at Yorkshire Sculpture Park. As expected its new location had a big impact on the experience. Emerging from minimalist concrete housing to rolling hills and formal gardens, I strangely found myself longing for the dingy backstreets of Elephant & Castle. Visually, the work remained stunning. However, the original effect was created not only by its visual beauty, but also by the juxtaposition of the piece to its setting. It was like a hidden place of magic and beauty nestling amidst a harsh, urban landscape.
The setting wasn’t the only thing that had changed.
Although the work remained visually stunning, it had visibly undergone, and was still undergoing, an aging process. The once bright blue crystals were dimmer and the floor which previously crunched with crystals beneath your feet, leaving blue puddles, was replaced with grey dust. A bath originally overflowing with crystals had few remaining and the guide repeatedly insisted that we did not disturb the walls which are shedding crystals daily. Though the installation is still a great asset to Yorkshire Sculpture Park, I was lead to contemplate how much effort should be put into preserving an artwork, and how much it should be allowed to be distorted, when it is essentially dying anyway. However in this instance, I think that despite its decay, the journey it has made breathes new life into it, adding another chapter to the work’s story.
“Seizure” is set to stay at Yorkshire Sculpture Park for another 7 years, by which time it is estimated to be significantly deteriorated and living out its twilight years. The ambition and sheer beauty of the work makes it a must see, even if its glory years are behind it.
[”Seizure” in 2009 © Roger Hiorns]