Roger Hiorns

The new exhibition at The Hepworth Wakefield is doubly as exciting as normal: not only is it the first time that Roger Hiorns‘ collection of Youth works are brought together in this untitled exhibition, but it’s the first show in The Hepworth’s new gallery space The Calder.

For a long time the area around the gallery had been in this odd static state where the historic mill buildings, so fundamental to Wakefield’s industrial heritage, desperately wanted to catch up with the new build of the gallery and be part of the area’s regeneration, but the recession hit and halted all notions of this.  The Calder imaginatively makes use of some of that space without too much of a commitment. The Hepworth has spruced up the ground floor of the old Caddies building, popped a portaloo outside , and opened it for business.

And it’s some business! The Roger Hiorns’ show features a rather masculine mix of commonplace and functional found objects, from metal benches to jetengines to concrete, that host unconventional material such as brain matter or dust. These objects are “enlivened” by naked young men who enter the space, undress, and sit on several of the objects during a 50 minute performance. On some of the objects a flame is lit and the youth watches it burn it the end.

visitorsThe literature tells us that behaviour and how we behave is a theme in Hiorns’ work, and certainly watching people in The Calder is more interesting than looking at the works. Some view the human figure as one would, say, a sculpture, while others see a threat. The space given to the works and the performers also varies greatly with many following the performer from object to object, while others hug the walls while they loop back around to the exit. What’s even more interesting is that the visitors are warned before entering the space that there is material of a sensitive nature in the show, so they have actively chosen to view it.

The performances happen three times a day, but the objects are further animated throughout the day with a live streaming of sound from Wakefield Cathedral. It’s a wonderful reminder of life and routine as chit chat, cleaning, work, and music floats into the gallery from the city-centre sanctuary. It somewhat reminds me of the concerns of Haroon Mirza who’s exhibition Water, Electricity, Reflections (2013) is currently showing in the main Hepworth gallery. He questions conventional and cultural rules of gallery space, and as Aesthetica Magazine explains “…[the work] refers to art employed as part of a religious ritual or ceremony where sound was also a fundamental component.” Both exhibitions disrupt the sound of a gallery space, making it unexpected. Having spent time in both exhibitions, The Calder suffers the most from the need to whisper, and the broadcast seems to intensify it.

I would argue that there is an additional element to the exhibition – the light. The industrial unit and the wall of windows that drops down into the River Calder gives the space a gorgeous light that shines off the shiny worn slabs on the ground and gives texture to the metal and stone objects. The changing weather and the summer hurtling towards autumn will make for a really interesting show to see over and over again.

Roger Hiorns’ will be exhibiting at The Calder until 3 November 2013, and the best bit is…you can take photos! He is also showing Seizure at Yorkshire Sculpture Park during the summer holidays and again at half term (26 October – 3 November 2013).


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