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Roger Hiorns on post 9/11 artwork

Roger Hiorns interview on Art Info:


Hiorns discusses the use of planes and plane parts in his artwork post 9-11, also planes for a future piece of art physically burying an intact commercial airliner.

Excerpts from the interview:

In the “September 11” exhibition, currently on at MOMA PS1, you are presenting the pulverized engine of a passenger aircraft (“Untitled,” 2008).  How did this piece come about?

This piece doesn’t have any set structure; it’s completely formless. I really wanted to explore the idea that you didn’t have to make sculpture that was solid, had aesthetic rules attached to it, or had to exist as a singular form. I wanted to explore the idea that you could introduce a certain sense of immateriality into an object. That decision then led to finding a dominant social object, an object that encourages a certain sense of global behavior. The jet engine is a good example of an important dominant object, and I wanted to insult it — the insult was to render it very little, the opposite of what its form was.

Both this dust piece and the jet engine piece, which is in Edinburgh at the moment, represent a certain materiality of world. There is a certain sense of creating a trap for ourselves and the jet engine encapsulates a narrative of that. I was also interested in the fact that it was a piece of work that could find itself in a gallery space, but also stuck between the gaps in the floor boards — or perhaps even on a jet plane. The form of this piece is never going to resolve itself, so I thought it was a perfect sculptural form for now. There’s a kind of formlessness to the period we live in.

For the dust piece, you reduced an aircraft engine to nothing, but in the piece about to go on show in Edinburgh, you left the two engines pretty much intact. What’s the relationship between these two works, how do they converse?

The dust piece came first, so the first thing I did to a jet engine in terms of my work was to turn it into a powder, to make it disappear. In the second version, I kept it as a solid object, but the insult, or the corruption of this object is to insert anti-depressants crushed into a powder into the engines’ mechanism. For me, it’s another dust work inside that piece. The jet engines are designed to enable us to have a rather extraordinary experience of the world, and the anti-depressants also offer a rather adjusted experience of reality. I was very interested in these two adjustments of reality being in the same place.

Taking a piece of cutting-edge technology and burying it seems to suggest a certain ending which seems quite relevant about how you are supposed to relate to materials that are present in the world.

I have been interested in Hiorns work since I saw his atomised jet engine piece in Tate Britain in 2008- at the time nominated for his Seizure piece. The engine dust arranged on the floor of the gallery is one of those pieces of artwork that made me want to stay there all day, I liked the aesthetic of the piece but was also completely intrigued by the concept behind it.

Roger Hiorns, Untitled, atomised commerical jet engine

I would also like to see the buried plane piece, I’m very interested in the concept of transforming the symbolism of objects. The idea for the piece reminded me of Alex Andreyev’s work- an alternative symbolism and conventions for man made objects and the natural world.

As I’m dealing with commercial planes in my work I also have to be aware of the connotations of contemporary terrorism and public sensitivity towards the subject. I have to ensure that through various means (titles, composition, depiction etc) my artwork communicates both my philosophical and technical research.

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Filed under MA Fine Art, Musings