Indifferent Matter: From Object to Sculpture

Indifferent Matter

The Henry Moore Institute is a contemporary art gallery in the centre of Leeds. It gets a new exhibition on around every three months and from 25th July – 20th October 2013 the exhibition was ‘Indifferent Matter: From Object to Sculpture’. The concept was that the exhibition was made up of four pairs of objects; one that was a contemporary piece of art or art installation, the other an old or natural object. The exhibition was put together to try to question the idea of what a sculpture is. This is done by using certain names, titles and ways of displaying each piece.

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The first pair in the collection is a piece by Felix Gonzalez-Torres and a found object of unknown purposes. The piece by Gonzalez-Torres from 1991, called ‘”Untitled” (Placebo)’ is a rectangle of sweets on the floor, each sweet is individually wrapped in silver cellophane and at the beginning of the day the weight of the sweets is equal to that of the average man. The sweets are there to be taken and eaten by the visitors to the gallery so the rectangle tends to dissipate by the end of the day. The other objects in the pairing are neolithic jade discs along with a tsung columns which were found in burial sites of Liangzhu culture (3400-2250 BC) in North East China. The purpose of them is completely unknown.

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The first object in the next pair is a tray of seeded soil that sprouts over the course of the exhibition, suspended in a clear perspex box. It is by Hans Haacke and is called ‘Grass Cube’ (1967). It challenges the idea that a sculpture should be created by a person and should be a still, inanimate object. It also creates the issue of whether this be accepted entirely into the art world as the artist hasn’t particularly created anything unique himself. It is paired with a recently undiscovered, and as yet unnamed, mineral species. This also is left on the outskirts of its field as a mineral has no place in the classification system until it is formally given a name.

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As you enter the room containing the third pairing, you are immediately greeted by the elements of the first piece; giant balloons half-filled with helium so that, as a fan blows them around the vast room, the float up and down within reach of the visitors who can then interact with the balloons by sending them rising back up to the ceiling. This piece was created by Andy Warhol in (1966) and is entitled ‘Silver Clouds’. In the centre of the room containing the balloons sit two Roman marble sculptures of unknown sitters by unknown artists. They are a pair of male legs and then a female portrait bust situated in a display made by British artist Steven Claydon in 1969. These pieces are stationary and are the complete opposite of the balloons which encourage engagement.

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The final pairing is made up of Robert Smithson’s piece ‘Asphalt Lump’ (1969) and a collection of eoliths which are pieces of chipped flint. Smithson’s piece is a lump of refuse from the industrial process of steel production. He calls the piece a sculpture as he claims it already conveyed the meaning that he wanted. The eoliths were originally thought to be man-made pieces but, through the advancement of technology and so knowledge, it was discovered that they are in fact naturally occurring. This piece is trying to portray how language and names can give value to useless objects.

I enjoyed this exhibition as it was interesting to see how each object was paired and to come to your own conclusions before reading the artists’ intentions. I really enjoy visiting the Henry Moore Institute, even though it is small we are lucky to have such a good contemporary art gallery on our door step.

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