Crystal Space
August 10, 2009 1:45 AM   Subscribe

Seizure is an art installation by Roger Hiorns (Introducing his work in a YouTube video); "75,000 litres of copper sulphate solution were pumped into the council flat to create a strangely beautiful and somewhat menacing crystalline growth on the walls, floor, ceiling and bath (Flickr sets) of this abandoned dwelling." First opened in late 2008, the deliberately temporary work can be viewed by the public (free) again, thanks to a delay to development at the site in the current economic downturn.
posted by Abiezer (44 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
Little bit on the making of the piece and a few more pics here.
posted by Abiezer at 1:48 AM on August 10, 2009

Very pretty, and interesting, but the rooms are a bit empty and cavelike. It would've impressed me more to see some crystallized furniture, as though someone had actually been living there just prior to the crystals taking over.
posted by rifflesby at 2:01 AM on August 10, 2009

posted by rifflesby Very pretty, and interesting, but the rooms are a bit empty and cavelike.

The place is a lot more vibrant when Jor-El's disembodied head appears in the living room.
posted by mattdidthat at 2:06 AM on August 10, 2009 [2 favorites]

Art + Science = Win
posted by twirlypen at 2:12 AM on August 10, 2009

Entering the building, which is to be demolished after the installation closes, one notices something wrong through a doorway to the right, a gleaming blue wall that stands out among the otherwise universally drab surfaces. You walk into the space itself and the initial effect is captivating – every surface is covered with thousands of sparkling crystals, all of them a remarkable deep blue. It’s like entering a cave encrusted with precious gems, or walking into a huge geode; the cavern-like sensation is further reinforced by the boots visitors must wear, and the uneven, slushy floor surface. The space is literally breathtaking, provoking little “oohs” and “aahs” from the others coming inside. Splendid and beautiful, at first Seizure provokes joy; presently, however, that changes. Visiting caves for pleasure was a practice invented in the 18th century by thrill-seekers looking for a newly identified sensation, the sublime. Like the uncanny, the sublime rests on ambivalence, in Edmund Burke’s original definition of the word, “tranquillity tinged with terror”, danger made delightful. We have had the delight – on to the terror.

What I thought the first time around (a self-link).
posted by WPW at 2:55 AM on August 10, 2009 [3 favorites]

If you're in London, go and see it while you have the chance, it's an experience that has stayed with me in an incredibly powerful way. I have dreamed of those rooms.
posted by WPW at 2:56 AM on August 10, 2009

I went this weekend. Well worth seeing: strange, beautiful and disturbing.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 3:01 AM on August 10, 2009

My bathroom needs this. How can I do one wall?
posted by rokusan at 3:07 AM on August 10, 2009

Wish I'd found your review before making the post, WPW; better than any of the others I read.
posted by Abiezer at 3:08 AM on August 10, 2009

This is a super huge large scale version of the science project I did when I was 11. Awesome.
posted by atmosphere at 3:11 AM on August 10, 2009

But wouldn't it look better with a professional white background?
posted by verstegan at 3:15 AM on August 10, 2009 [3 favorites]

We have had the delight – on to the terror.

the queues are pretty terrifying if i remember correctly
posted by doobiedoo at 4:06 AM on August 10, 2009

i almost wish this was never publicised, so that some people could just fall into a rabbit hole and then feverishly argue amongst themselves, wtf was that? what to we do next? what now?
posted by doobiedoo at 4:11 AM on August 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure yet if I like the installation, but I definitely like that it was done.
posted by BrotherCaine at 4:24 AM on August 10, 2009

It's quite strange, as I used to live near this little block of townhouses and had gone to photograph it a few times in all of its lost-utopian melancholia, (here, if you like, is a self-link to some pictures of the mostly empty housing estate surrounding this place), and then after I move out of the neighbourhood it gets famous.
I would have loved to have a chance to visit. The closest I think I've ever experienced to anything like this was during a wild tree planting party in northern Ontario when we stapled a metallic tarp to the inside of a cabin to make an impromptu, iridescent sauna.
posted by Flashman at 4:38 AM on August 10, 2009

This needs to be the new interior decorating fad.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 4:40 AM on August 10, 2009

75,000 litres of copper sulphate solution were pumped into the council flat
Hiorns has also made sculpture with detergent, disinfectant, semen and fire.

I'd hate to be the person who opened the door to the flat at the end of the semen project.
posted by digsrus at 4:49 AM on August 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

None of the photos or descriptions of it quite prepare you for just how awesome, in the true sense of the word, Seizure is.
posted by 13twelve at 5:44 AM on August 10, 2009

I remember when we did some stuff in science class with Copper 2 Sulphate. I thought it was the prettiest color ever. Then I found out it was totally poisonous.

posted by Afroblanco at 5:44 AM on August 10, 2009

posted by Horace Rumpole at 5:59 AM on August 10, 2009

This is great! This would make a fantastic set for some sort of fantastic fantasy movie.

posted by Mister_A at 6:46 AM on August 10, 2009

Just to underline what a number of others have said - if you get the chance go see it. While the photos are good they can never really compare with the experience of walking into there, it's just wonderful.

That said I'm annoyed it's still open as I was really enjoying the smug superiority of having gone to it before it was Turner nominated, but now it's open again and everyone can see it and all I have left are my bitter, bitter tears.
posted by ciderwoman at 6:52 AM on August 10, 2009

It's beautiful, and I would love to wander around in it, but this type of installation art generally leaves me a little flat.

It seems that, with a lot of these installations (there's an apartment in New York that's entirely filled with dirt, from what I recall seeing posted here before), there's a single idea, and the idea is along the lines of, "Wouldn't it be cool if...?" and the if is a single task, such as plastering the walls with these chemicals, or lining the walls with growing grass, or painting everything, including furniture and food, metallic silver.

It's an experience, for sure, to wander through these spaces, but to me, it straddles the line between carnival funhouse and odd interior decorating. I don't usually think about art in terms of "Is this art?" but I do tend to wonder exactly what the artist had in mind beyond, "Cool!" when I see installations like this.

Then again, there's something to be said for, "Cool!"
posted by xingcat at 7:13 AM on August 10, 2009

Yeah, I think "wouldn't it be cool if..." is a perfectly good–nay, the best–reason to execute an art project.
posted by Mister_A at 7:25 AM on August 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

You mean of course The New York Earth Room by Walter De Maria.

He also created The Lightning Field one of my favorite works.
posted by misterpatrick at 7:26 AM on August 10, 2009

Yeah, I think "wouldn't it be cool if..." is a perfectly good–nay, the best–reason to execute an art project.

Oh, I think so, as well, I guess I just think of myself as unsophisticated if I don't conjure up more than, "Wow!" when I see something like this. Maybe I try to complicate things when they're labeled as "art" more than I should.
posted by xingcat at 7:30 AM on August 10, 2009

I hear ya, xingcat.
posted by Mister_A at 7:36 AM on August 10, 2009

Art is anything that's awesome when you're high.

This accounts for both good art and bad art.
posted by ixohoxi at 7:37 AM on August 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

That said, this place would be awesome if you were high.
posted by ixohoxi at 7:37 AM on August 10, 2009

I like this one, especially in a disused and probably soon to be torn down apartment building. Good Stuff.
posted by NiteMayr at 7:42 AM on August 10, 2009

It's a bit of a pity, the way the study of art has sucked the fun out of it for so many people–I used to worry about stuff like that too–am I interpreting this picture the "right" way? What is the painter trying to say? What does the use of these different media say about our commodified culture?

Then I had kids, and they helped me get over myself. Now it's more like, "Awesome! I love butterflies!" or "That dude is made of vegetables!"

Which is not to say that there aren't deeper layers of personal and cultural significance in art, but that's not the first thing to look for. The question to ask is, "Do I like this?"
posted by Mister_A at 7:45 AM on August 10, 2009 [6 favorites]

Mister_A, that's exactly the kind of argument an uncultured boor would make.

I totally agree with you.
posted by ixohoxi at 8:10 AM on August 10, 2009

I think I've already commented here that this is awesome and well worth getting down to. So instead I will reproduce a brilliant piece of piss-taking from the comments to this Evening Standard article:
I just can't express how much I agree with the previous comments. It's amazing what these shocking toff-artists can get away with. My hairdresser could have done a much better job. Where is the beauty in this? The shocking audacity just makes me disgusted. The real old masters like Courbet and paintings like the sublime 'Origin of the World' are examples of what art should be like. What we need is real craftmanship from our artists. As far as I am concerned no one can do art any more: it stopped in about 1927 when Monet died. Someone told me the other day that nowadays they're even showing urinals in art galleries. What next? Cadavers in our Cathedrals?
posted by ninebelow at 8:55 AM on August 10, 2009 [2 favorites]

On filling spaces with stuff and calling it art:

Richard Wilson "20:50"

Joseph Beuys "Plight"

Damien Hirst "Love Lost"
posted by the painkiller at 9:52 AM on August 10, 2009

Rachel Whiteread "House"
posted by Sys Rq at 12:24 PM on August 10, 2009

Not at all saying you're wrong, Mr_A, but the first question I always ask is 'How does this make me feel?' Gives you a lot more room to come to the piece before you decide offhand whether you like it or not.
posted by ciderwoman at 1:26 PM on August 10, 2009

Pepsi crystal blue. Do you have anything in green?
posted by Cranberry at 2:14 PM on August 10, 2009

The main thing that spoils art, for me, are the texts that go along with it, these days. The web site linked for "Seizure" has five pages of impenetrable post-modern verbal diahorrea accompianing the pictures. Which was completely unnecessary, as the pictures themselves tell you all you need to know. Serious over-contextualizing. "I filled a room with copper sulphate and it looks frickin' awesome" doesn't need an essay to explain it.
posted by Jimbob at 2:51 PM on August 10, 2009 [3 favorites]

"Hey, wouldn't it be cool if we filled a building with crystals of a toxic substance?"

Seriously, this is quite cool and all, visually, and I have no problem with considering this as art, but I would have to say no to touching or even visiting that space for very long—or bringing one's children there, as they suggest!—given its MSDS info.

I really wonder how they're going to dispose of it properly, without endangering the health of demolition workers and/or the local environment. I sure hope they've thought that part through...
posted by limeonaire at 2:53 PM on August 10, 2009

lineonaire, copper sulphate is only dangerous as a dust. The MSDS warnings are mostly concerned with inhalation. Since it's often stored and transported as a powder for convenience in dissolving, that's an important thing, but in this installation the crystals are much too large to get into your nose.

I suspect there was a plan for recovering the copper sulphate as part of the installation plan; it's not that hard since copper sulphate dissolves readily in water and most housing parts don't. Load the smashed bits of the house into a few large dumpsters, fill with water, drain water, repeat several times, send the water in a tanker truck to a place that likes to use copper sulphate for useful things.
posted by localroger at 6:18 PM on August 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

Yeah, but when it's crystallized all over the floor and those crystals are stepped on and fractured as people make their way through the exhibit, then what? I understand that you can't breathe crystals the size of your fist, but still, it seems probable that there'd be some amount of copper sulphate dust inadvertently created in the course of everyday wear and tear on the exhibit.

Anyway, just seems interesting to me that they used a chemical like this to create that effect.
posted by limeonaire at 8:24 PM on August 10, 2009

localroger, copper sulphate is toxic period, it's just more accessible as dust. It's also very toxic to aquatic organisms when it enters a waterway. In the US it's an IMMEDIATE HEALTH HAZARD, an Environmentally Hazardous Substance, and a Marine Pollutant.

Who's going to pay for the specialized disposal work to separate out the toxic, dusty art part from the rest of the housing estate, ensure that the workers handling the materials are protected, pay the tipping/hazardous waste disposal fees at the landfill, ensure that the proper paperwork is done and the waste transported according to regulation? I haven't mentioned local environmental regulations for cleaning up a mess like this because I don't know what's in place in London, although I imagine that they're more restrictive than here (Canada), where this sort of thing would be very expensive to clean up.

The installation is totally cool, and they had enough money to buy the materials and pull the thing together, but who's going to pay for the cleanup? Maybe art will imitate life and the perp Artists will skip town and leave it for the municipality to clean up.
posted by sneebler at 9:21 PM on August 10, 2009

Who's going to pay for the specialized disposal work? [...] Maybe art will imitate life and the perp Artists will skip town and leave it for the municipality to clean up.

The creation of the work was organised and paid for by Arts Council England and Channel 4, both government-owned bodies. It was done in a building owned by the municipality (Southwark Council) with their full cooperation and support.

But yeah, maybe they'll skip town.
posted by cillit bang at 3:06 AM on August 11, 2009

I think this place showed up in my dreams.

In 1975.
posted by egypturnash at 10:44 AM on August 11, 2009

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