Roger Hiorns, Seizure

The sprawling council estates near Elephant and Castle in South London are not the kind of place you might expect to find magic, but magic can sometimes appear in the most unpredictable of places.

151-189 Harper Road
Photograph by James Smith

For a month in late 2008, and then between 23 July 2009 and 3 January 2010, the unassuming block of modernist flats located at 151-189 Harper Road became a place of pilgrimage for art lovers, when Roger Hiorns transformed the interior of one of its empty apartments into his large-scale sculptural environment, Seizure. The engineering and chemistry involved in creating this work were mind-boggling, with Hiorns filling the ground-floor flat with 75,000 litres of copper sulphate solution through a hole in the ceiling, then allowing nature to take its course.

By the artist’s own admission, the end results were unpredictable. Hiorns had no idea if his plan would work, but anyone who had the chance to see the end results can attest to the incredible success of the project. What was created there was unique and bizarre, beautiful and undeniably magical.

Entering Seizure
Photograph by Rory Lindsay

The word-of-mouth success of the installation often resulted in queues outside the flats, which were already lined up for demolition. Visitors were invited to swap their footwear for sturdier wellington boots, and on entering the apartment the reason for this quickly became clear. Every single inch of the interior was caked in chunky copper sulphate crystals, their bold azure tones filling the windowless rooms with otherworldly glimmers as the glassy planes reflected light around the space. The floor was covered in a crunching carpet of crushed crystals, the odd footprint filled up with pools of liquid blue. Seizure had the atmosphere of a post-modern fairy grotto, an all-consuming environment in which the visitor could become totally involved, even overwhelmed. A place which had once been regarded as anonymous and obsolete, lost in a soulless concrete jungle, was transformed, for a few months at least, into somewhere very special.

Following the closure of the installation in 2010, most people believed that Seizure had been destroyed along with the building which housed it. Only recently has it come to light that, in another piece of amazing engineering, the work was removed as a whole and has since been kept in storage. Artangel, who commissioned the original work, have recently announced that it is to be installed in the Yorkshire Sculpture Park in 2013, where it will be opened once again to the public.

Inside the apartment
Photograph by Nick Cobbing

It will be interesting to see how this new location affects the impact of this latest incarnation of Seizure. For me its unexpected presence in the urban wasteland of South London was what made it so wonderful; it truly was a hidden gem. To place it amongst the rolling hills of Yorkshire surrounded by the elegant sculptures of Henry Moore or Richard Long, artworks which were after all created for this bucolic environment, may alter its impact altogether. Then again, perhaps the strength of the work will survive its radical change in circumstances. The only way to find out will be to see for yourself, so if you happen to find yourself in Yorkshire next year a visit to the Sculpture Park to take in Seizure is highly recommended. If you are anything like me, it will be an experience that will stay with your for many years to come.

Seizure, Roger Hiorns, 2008.

Commissioned by Artangel and the Jerwood Charitable Foundation, supported by the National Lottery through Arts Council England, in association with Channel 4.

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5 Responses to “Roger Hiorns, Seizure

  1. Great post MSF, I’ve always wanted to go to that sculpture park

  2. So close and yet never went! It does look wonderful

  3. A very nice post! I remember to have seen it during my Master time, it was incredible in the flesh. I particularly enjoy as well his work with the cathedral cardboard models, a very interesting artist!

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