The fourth in our series on meditative art – Glass profiles Roger Hiorns’ Seizure at Yorkshire Sculpture Park

Glass presents the fourth in our online series on meditative art installations from across the world

IN 2008, Roger Hiorns requisitioned a derelict postwar council flat on Harper Road in Elephant and Castle, South East London, to realise an ambitious project commissioned by Artangel. Pumping some 80,000 litres of copper sulphate solution (created from a highly concentrated mixture of copper sulphate powder with boiling water) into the bedsit, Hiorns left this to crystallise over the span of two months, before the remaining solution was sucked out of the building and its transformed interior revealed.

Roger Hiorns, Seizure, 2008/2013. All images © the artist and courtesy of the artist and Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre London. Photographs: Marcus Leith

This violent intervention resulted in the formation of a cave-like environment colonised by azure copper sulphate crystals. Titled Seizure, Hiorns’ installation initially seems to exist out of specificities of time or space. The gem-like surfaces of the work, whilst seductive in appearance and tactility, simultaneously convey – with the crystals’ sharp edges and chemical formation – a sense of menace. Faceted walls are interspersed with ‘blooms’ of crystal clusters that resemble post apocalyptic flowers; the ground is littered with ‘craters’ of liquid. Yet the perceptual scale of the work and its unfamiliar environment morph viewer into explorer; observation into wonder.

Speaking of the conception of the work and his choice to work with copper sulphate, Hiorns has said, “I needed a material to achieve a certain kind of detached activity, and on a basic level an act of transformation, a material which was going to simply transform another material. I felt a system of nature like crystallisation would do.”

Experimenting with the notion of removing the artist’s hand from his creation, the resulting, startlingly sublime installation, is entropic in nature. Here, copper sulphate solution colonises the surfaces that it makes contact with, engulfing the foundations of its very structure. Occasionally visitors catch glimpses of the bones of the host’s body: when observing the familiar lines of fittings in the bedsit’s bathroom, for example.

Following its inception in South London, Seizure was acquired by the Arts Council Collection, who oversaw – with baited breath and military precision – the extraction of the work from its Harper Road site and relocation to a purpose-built structure in Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

Collaborating with Adam Khan Architects, Roger Hiorns, the Arts Council Collection and Yorkshire Sculpture Park designed a building composed of precast concrete slabs to rehouse Seizure and to preserve the work from extreme fluctuations in temperature or humidity. This presentation of the work opened to the public in 2013 and will remain on display until 2023.

Entering the bunker-like space that contains Hiorn’s work in Yorkshire is somewhat reminiscent of entering a tomb. Cracks of daylight filter through gaps in the structure’s concrete walls, allowing visitors’ visions to adjust from daylight to dimness within its antechamber, before entering an electrifying void of blue.

by Rowena Chiu

Seizure will remain on display as part of the Arts Council Collection at Yorkshire Sculpture Park until 2023.

Seizure was commissioned by Artangel and the Jerwood Charitable Foundation with the support of the National Lottery through Arts Council England and donated to the Arts Council Collection by the artist and above organisations through the Art Fund, with the support of The Henry Moore Foundation.