Brian Dillon, 2008
Light fittings. Photograph by Marcus Leith, London. Image courtesy of Corvi-Mora, London
(Page 5 of 6)
Between Ruskin’s conception of the crystal as moral touchstone and Smithson’s of a crystalline ruin, Modernism dreams of a crystal architecture. Joseph Paxton’s Crystal Palace provides the model: a building in which, claims the catalogue of the Great Exhibition of 1851, the very air itself is visible as a bluish haze. (The Crystal Palace, in this sense, is merely an extension of the Victorian obsession with glassed-in atmospheres and ecosystems: greenhouses, aquariums, museum cabinets containing violent tableaux from nature.) This fantasy of total enclosure, of the building as a transparent, impermeable envelope, was extended by Sergei Eisenstein, who planned to make a film entirely set in a vast glass house of his own design, and brought to its absurd conclusion by Yves Klein in his project for an ‘air architecture’. It would be finally possible, thought Klein, to dispense with the substance of architecture entirely, and roof our dwellings with jets of air and water or wall ourselves away behind sheets of fire. Architecture would become force rather than form. We would live within a nexus of pure energy, our eyes continually open to the sky and the blue of distance.
It is too tempting to fuse Hiorns’s blue crystals historically to the blue of Klein’s monochromes. Klein’s is ultimately an art and thought of transcendence; Hiorns professes himself allergic to such ambitions, even as his works seem to promise a sacred or enchanted relation to the object. Seizure, he says, is not about beauty; nor does it court the sort of symbolism with which his chosen material, the blue crystal, seems to be saturated. Hiorns’s immersion in the process, his trusting to the material, his absenting himself from the scene of the work’s production: all of this suggests instead an artist who is more interested in the subtraction of significance – ‘the desire fundamentally is not to be stricken with meaning’. The ravishing result of the chemical reaction is merely one more stage in the construction of a specific state of mind: a rigorously organised disavowal of authorial control.
At the same time, Seizure is surely so freighted with significance and so drenched with beauty that it sinks knowingly into an awed Romanticism or kitsch: it’s impossible not to think, say, of the artificial, crystal-lined grotto that Ludwig II of Bavaria built for his own delectation at Schloss Linderhof, or the hermetic and glowing interior décor commissioned by the dandy Des Esseintes in J.K. Huysmans’s novel À Rebours (1884).
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