Sarah Sze: Triple Point
US Pavilion, Giardini, Venice
1 June - 24 November 2013
Review by Marie d’Elbée
A heap of organised horizontal and vertical lines become visible upon approaching the United States pavilion. Detaching themselves slightly from the building and the leafy trees, they evoke suspended tight-rope scaffolding or an ascending measurement structure. The thin coloured lines cut out geometric shapes into the air, organising invisible space. On the ground below, small objects, that could be coloured crumbs or leftovers from the aerial structure, are ordered, forming systems.
For the 55th International Art Exhibition, Sarah Sze (born 1969) presents her arachnid site-specific installation ‘Triple Point’. Coming from a painting and architectural background, the artist has been composing ephemeral in situ installations since the late 1990s, which manipulate space with ethereal sculptures involving myriad everyday objects.
‘Triple Point’ originally designates the perfect equilibrium of temperature and pressure at which the three phases, gas, liquid, and solid of that substance, coexist in perfect thermodynamic equilibrium. Triangulation, the process of determining a point by measuring the distance from three cardinal points, is also used to specify a unique location in space. These two ideas emanate from Sze’s installation as she hovers on the edge of equilibrium whilst attempting to ground a precise point in time and space.
From one space to another throughout the 1930s Delano & Aldrich pavilion, the installation unravels delicate hanging mobiles, pigments agglutinated like insects around sources of light, strings and napkins animated by fans and various found materials. The viewer is led to experiment within something analogous to a scientific model which oscillates between arranged time and space, and organised hoarding. The swarm of small details capsizes at times into the appreciation of the whole monumental structure. The work seems to grow organically like an abnormal garden attempting to merge with architecture and geometrical data. Twigs and branches are held in place or measured by stakes or scaffoldings: natural forms intertwined with architectural structures. The objects seem to behave as if they have a life force of their own.
The creative process is fundamental to the work. During the three installation months of the biennale, the artist has transformed the pavilion into an art laboratory. Fluttering movements are sought after by Sze; she uses fans to recreate the impression of unpredictable natural movement like the quivering of leaves and observes how her installations blend with a landscape or balance within a frame. She likes to incorporate local elements in her installations that will be recognised as coming from the site. The viewer is to perceive the accidents and changes of decisions, as well as the manner in which the work has been improvised in situ, as fully part of the final work. At the very core of the work is the distinction between art and life as the viewer shifts in and out, led from familiar to alien objects.
‘Central to the exhibition is the notion of the ‘compass’, and how we locate ourselves in a perpetually disorienting world”, said Sze. “Each of the rooms functions as an experimental site in which objects attempt to become instruments or assemblages that seek to measure or model our location in time and space. The aspiration to build models that capture complexity - and the impossibility of that undertaking - underscores this body of work.’
‘Triple Point’s interrelated ecosystems; ‘Gleaner’, ‘Planetarium’, ‘Eclipse’, ‘Orrery’, ‘Scale’ and ‘Pendulum’, are like cosmic rhizomes in teetering gravitation that could be among others ascending, descending, expanding or retracting.