Sarah Sze’s immersive art installation “Timekeeper” at Copenhagen Contemporary

Sarah Sze immerses the viewer in her new installation “Timekeeper”.

Sarah Sze’s “Timekeeper” installation is currently on display at Copenhagen Contemporary until 3 September 2017.

Sarah Sze, 'Timekeeper', 2016, Mixed media, mirrors, wood, stainless steel, archival pigment prints, projectors, lamps, desks, stools, stone. Installation view at Copenhagen Contemporary. Image courtesy the artist, Tanya Bonakdar Gallery and Victoria Miro Gallery. © Sarah Sze.

Sarah Sze, ‘Timekeeper’, 2016, mixed media, mirrors, wood, stainless steel, archival pigment prints, projectors, lamps, desks, stools, stone. Installation view at Copenhagen Contemporary. Image courtesy the artist, Tanya Bonakdar Gallery and Victoria Miro Gallery. © Sarah Sze.

Sarah Sze was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1969. For over 20 years the artist has produced works that synthesise a near boundless range of materials into objects imbued with sensory experiences of urban life. Sze builds her installations and intricate sculptures from the minutiae of daily existence, imbuing mundane materials, marks and processes with significance. Combining domestic detritus and office supplies into fantastical miniatures, she builds her works, fractal-like, on an architectural scale.

Sometimes delicate and diminutive, other times sprawling and sublime, her works embody what has become known as the ‘post-medium condition’. Never strictly painting, sculpture, video, drawing or installation, and frequently all of the above, Sze’s objects both mime and critique the constant swell of information and imagery that constitutes our traversing of the modern world.

Sarah Sze, 'Timekeeper', 2016, Mixed media, mirrors, wood, stainless steel, archival pigment prints, projectors, lamps, desks, stools, stone. Installation view at Copenhagen Contemporary. Image courtesy the artist, Tanya Bonakdar Gallery and Victoria Miro Gallery. © Sarah Sze.

Sarah Sze, ‘Timekeeper’, 2016, mixed media, mirrors, wood, stainless steel, archival pigment prints, projectors, lamps, desks, stools, stone. Installation view at Copenhagen Contemporary. Image courtesy the artist, Tanya Bonakdar Gallery and Victoria Miro Gallery. © Sarah Sze.

Information overload

Like the scientific instruments of measurement they often reference, Sze’s sculptures attempt to quantify and organise the universe, ascribing a fragile, personal system of order. Within her practice, sculpture becomes both a device for organising and dismantling information and a mechanism to locate and dislocate oneself in time and space. In the past, the artist has, for example, incorporated electric lights and fans, water systems, and houseplants to explore ecological themes of interconnectivity and sustainability.

In her most recent installation Timekeeper (2016) now on show at Copenhagen Contemporary, Sze makes extensive use of the popular new media technique of video mapping, which allows a greater control over the projection of images onto a diverse range of shapes and surfaces, including mirrors. The effect is the glittering fragmentation of a single frame or sense of a whole and a sensory overload governed by the multiple projected images, the presence of digital clocks, the sounds of clocks ticking and waves rippling. As a consequence, the work has a beguiling irony, reproducing the familiar sensation of information overload that surfing the web might produce. The sense of pressure that governs most people’s daily working lives is achieved acutely through the assemblages of elements that are both familiar and unfamiliar, giving architectural form to globalised visuality.

Sarah Sze, 'Timekeeper', 2016, Mixed media, mirrors, wood, stainless steel, archival pigment prints, projectors, lamps, desks, stools, stone. Installation view at Copenhagen Contemporary. Image courtesy the artist, Tanya Bonakdar Gallery and Victoria Miro Gallery. © Sarah Sze.

Sarah Sze, ‘Timekeeper’, 2016, mixed media, mirrors, wood, stainless steel, archival pigment prints, projectors, lamps, desks, stools, stone. Installation view at Copenhagen Contemporary. Image courtesy the artist, Tanya Bonakdar Gallery and Victoria Miro Gallery. © Sarah Sze.

The work references an earlier piece entitled Measuring Stick (2015), which also made use of multiple video projectors, stainless steel and mirrors (as well as fans, light, mirrors, wood, stone, archival prints, speakers, balloons, sand, fruit, eggs, plastic, toilet paper, aluminium foil and grass). Measuring Stick explores, as Sze stated in the press release, the “measurement of time and space through the moving image”. Sze remembered watching Charles and Ray Eames’s Powers of Ten as a young student in the 1970s, and cites the film as an inspiration for her work.

Sze’s sculpture originally began as a film but evolved into a three-dimensional work that resembles an editing desk, reflecting the moving image through the inclusion of flickering light, and references to “scientist image-makers”. Sze describes the diaphanous sculpture as an “experimental site” that “tries to actually measure a kind of behavior”.

Sarah Sze, 'Measuring Stick' (detail), 2015, video projectors, fan, light, mirrors, wood, stone, archival prints, speakers, stainless steel, balloon, sand, fruit, egg, plastic, toilet paper, aluminum foil, grass, 132 x 90 x 51 in (335.3 x 228.6 x 129.5 cm). Photo: Mike Barnett. Image courtesy the artist.

Sarah Sze, ‘Measuring Stick’ (detail), 2015, video projectors, fan, light, mirrors, wood, stone, archival prints, speakers, stainless steel, balloon, sand, fruit, egg, plastic, toilet paper, aluminum foil, grass, 132 x 90 x 51 in (335.3 x 228.6 x 129.5 cm). Installation view at Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, 2016. Photo: Mike Barnett. Image courtesy the artist.

Like Timekeeper, Measuring Stick is to be displayed with the lights off so that the only source of illumination is the sculpture itself. A video projection of a cheetah running in slow motion out of its frame plays alongside another projection linked up to NASA’s servers, showing a counter tallying the ever-growing distance between the Voyager 1 space shuttle and Earth. A constellation of boxy wire frames, torn photographs, everyday objects and a large false rock meet to create the sense of a slow-motion explosion of techno-scientific materials.

In Timekeeper, Sarah Sze blurs the line between organic and mechanical, heavy and delicate, placed and fallen in an installation that explores the sound, visuality and experience of time as it measures our daily life.

Rebecca Close

1681

Related topics: Globalisation, Museum showsmixed media, sculpture, prizes

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