Sara Sze’s micro universes have captured us with maximal installations like ‘Triple Point’, seen at the American Pavilion in Venice in 2013. My impression then was that something like a lo-fi extra-terrestrial, with an intricate scaffolding of wires, tools, clamps and ladders had blown in with the wind and crashed on the neo-Palladian pavilion. Perhaps the effect of an accident, the fake stones on the roof almost caricatured the precarious balance holding the structure together.
Spanning two venues and four floors, Sze’s current exhibition at Victoria Miro presents a collection of more discrete, almost introspective works. In Venice, an overload
of ‘things’ and paths between ‘things’ disoriented the viewer, in the Mayfair space, conversely, the same kind of ‘things’ gravitate around ten very specific centres of attraction. Compared to Sze’s almost baroque assemblages, ‘Model Series’ (2015) consists of more ephemeral, evasive, fragile, table-top experiments on the behavioural patterns between objects.
These systems in miniature are indeed reminiscent of scientific models (it was the late philosopher Arthur Danto who first compared Sze’s works to scientific experiments in 2005), although their relation to reality is rather the opposite to that of scientific models: they illustrate lost thoughts, changes of mind and other slippages of the rational world. They are impossible scientific models illustrating what science cannot measure: ‘Model for a Passing Thought’, ‘Model for a Forgotten Task’, ‘Model for a Suspended Sentence’, ‘Model for a Mixed Feeling’, ‘Model For a Frist Impression’, ‘Model For a Final Thought’ - the list goes on.
Rather than the encyclopaedic inundation of information that we struggle to count and measure, a theme previously at the centre of her works, these also suggest another consideration: the elusiveness of our attempt to measure time, or more precisely, to mark the significance of an event in the stream of the universe.
The sculptures composing ‘Model Series’ are ‘accidents per se’ in the etymological sense of ‘ad-cedere’, occurrences that just happen to be without a particular explanation. They illustrate events where ephemeral objects come to be interconnected by more or less evident physical forces. A small tree branch acts as a pendulum for objects suspended by a string, a mini constellation of planets vibrates as another body approximates it.
The humbleness of these models also emphasises the scale contrast between the particular and the universal, the mundane and the celestial. Will the patterns of behaviour governing these small systems be reflected in the macroscopic movements of planets? Will a particular event produce consequences in the universal flow of
By presenting newspaper pages where the original images have been substituted by those of constellations, fires or seas, the installation ‘Calendar Series’, (2015) is also clearly infused with this sense of elusiveness and erasure. We walk through numbers of pages lying ordered on the floor and are reminded of the single event’s irrelevance to the infinite, but also of the gigantic distance between the earth as a self-contained system and the rest of the universe.
‘Stone Series’, (2015) is also an extraordinary example of vertiginous juxtaposition. A landscape of stones recreates the outside in the exhibition space. Weightless hand-made stones are mixed with real ones, the abstract formations of lichens on the natural rock are rendered as flat images and replicated on the wall as a set of pantone samples.
In Sze’s work the real world and the one of the artifice are constantly renegotiated by the overlapping and displacement of points of view. As our eyes move between what appears to be and what becomes manifest after close inspection, we discover multiple narratives and meanings at the margin between scientific knowledge and
On contemplating her assemblages of mundane objects I couldn’t help but think of some of the earlier Fischli and Weiss works such as their photographic ‘Equilibres’ (1984-87), or the well-known film ‘The Way Things Go’ (1987), where a series of objects are set in motion by a chain of physical reactions. Despite the evident playfulness of all these works, in Sze’s ‘Models Series’ there is very little of the German duo’s sense of excitement for the marvels of the physical world. This has been replaced by a sense of loss and sadness, a sort of groundlessness that takes us to a parallel world and back, right into a melancholic interrogation of the impossibility of science.