Brian Dillon, 2008
"Crystalline perplex." Photograph by Marcus Leith, London. Image courtesy of Corvi-Mora, London.
(Page 6 of 6)
We might recall too the crystallised model cathedral of Hiorns’s Before the Rain (2003) and his recollection that as a choirboy at Birmingham cathedral he had the sense of the whole building growing, with extraordinary slowness and tedium, outwards from its altar. Hiorns’s elaboration of the cathedral’s expanding unity has something of the logic of kitsch, which resides in the excessive overlaying or laminating of an object with its own aesthetic significance, as though the structure were trying too hard to impress upon us its status as art or architecture. This false unity between the material and the meaning of the object is constantly suggested by Seizure and at the same time denied.
Five minutes’ walk from Harper Road, at the centre of the north roundabout at Elephant and Castle, sits the Michael Faraday Memorial, designed by the Brutalist architect Rodney Gordon in 1959 and completed in 1961. The stainless steel box – Gordon’s original design had called for a transparent glass structure, vetoed for fear of vandalism – conceals a London Underground electrical transformer for the Northern Line. Stranded in an area soon to be extensively redeveloped, the metal facets of the memorial seem to condense the architectural energy of the area and reflect it back along newly fractured lines. The object remains enigmatic and detached from its immediate locale, however: its anonymity (and Londoners’ apparent ignorance of what it signifies) is the most famous thing about it.
Seizure is in a sense the opposite of the Michael Faraday Memorial . With Hiorns’s intervention at Harper Road, all the actual and metaphorical machinery is on the outside, the mystery (and also a certain banality) on the inside. Or at least, this is the situation that obtains when the space is sealed, the solution allowed to cool and the crystals encouraged to shudder into being and probe the darkness. Once drained and opened, the space confounds expectations that it will seem reclusive, self-involved, aesthetically detached from its surroundings. Rather, the facets, fissures and unexpected, almost vegetal, protuberances of the crystal surface appear to expose the space to its outside; the crystalline perplex becomes part of the architecture of the flat complex and its environs, causing the planes and surfaces of concrete and brick to flex and fracture and rearrange themselves into novel attitudes and estranging patterns. The secret of Seizure, if there is a secret, is out.
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This essay was originally printed in the book Seizure. Click here to buy a copy.