“Nature is a frightening thing, and even when it’s solidly domesticated as in the Bois (de Boulogne - a park to the east of Paris) it gives real city dwellers an eerie, and anxious feeling. And puts them in a confiding mood.” [Journey To The End Of The Night, Céline]
James Smith: I should begin this interview with a declaration, that I was a member of the original Seizure production team; I am hoping that my experiences during the project might help to illuminate some of its most interesting corners.
JS: Seizure’s original location in Harper Road London was one of the more depressing derelict council estates that we researched and considered, marked by deliberate neglect and psychological distress. It now exists in the bucolic landscape of Yorkshire Sculpture Park; has this change of context surprised you in any way’
Roger Hiorns: I knew Harper Road, I lived close by and was familiar with the distressed nature of the estate. I had been a postman and delivered to a similar estate on Old Kent Road. I walked automatically through the estates of south east London, knowing them twice daily. My mind drifted to ideas. I was never well off and ideas were my only distraction. I now act on ideas, but then they were simply considered, either remembered or forgotten, I was comfortable in these degraded spaces, they enabled me to think clearer.
I think Seizure sits in a very synthetic environment now, less so than in the pragmatism of the urban rises of inner London that created the work. The landscape is cultivated, terra-formed, idealised in the composition of Victorians, paid for by wealthy industrialists, the romantics and their conquering hope of facing death. The land provides a vista, to hide the mines, the railway cuttings, the industry. Seizure is a synthetic surface, an object that has lost its origin, an undefined moment, set within the surface of the wider undefined tamed nature.
JS: I know that many people who encounter the work find it very beautiful, and to start with I was also one of them. Over time this sense of beauty has been replaced by a strong sense of horror, in fact when I am inside the work I feel terrified. I also remember a local resident describing it as the ‘worst prison imaginable’ with not a single surface that would not puncture you. How important is the psychological effect that the work renders on people’
RH: I loved to use the phrase; beauty was a by-product, a by-product of an important investigation into the making of the most detached and synthetic experience possible. If the result of an unknowable object is a starting point, I think that somehow best reflects our profound unknowability within the present era. Seizure carries with it an origin, a beginning, of intense separation, and the subjectivity of the visitor follows from this experience. Any resultant anxiety is of course difficult to assess.
JS: I cycled past Seizure’s original location recently, the flats are now demolished, and in their place is accommodation of equally questionable fabrication. The space the work now inhabits is somewhat tomb-like. Do you see the work as a memorial or type of obituary to what was once there’
RH: This was an interesting issue for me - the work is very unknowable in its status right now. It’s not known how long the object could last in its present state, nothing like it exists. I think our building reflects this ambiguity well, the building bears a subtle anxiety for its incumbent; it’s a heavy concrete construction made of thick precast slabs. It’s deadening inside, we needed that, the ambient temperature is constant that way, we needed to stop the environmental movements. We looked at Lenin’s tomb, half seriously perhaps, but there is also the notion of suspended animation that the old ideologue’s final home suggested to us.
Seizure, 2008/2013 originally inhabited a derelict flat in Harper Road London. The project was commissioned by Jerwood Charitable Foundation and Artangel. In January 2011, with the help of the Art Fund and the Arts Council the decision was taken to extract and preserve the work. It is now on semi-permanent loan at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park where it has been re-presented in a specially designed structure commissioned from Adam Khan Architects.