An Indifferent Matter?

Installation view of Indifferent Matter; Steven Claydon, A Setting for Ambivalent Objects, 2013, Courtesy the artist and Sadie Coles HQ, London, and The British Museum; Andy Warhol, Silver Clouds, 1966, The Andy Warhol Museum in cooperation with The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. and Billy Klüver © The Andy Warhol Foundatio. Photo: Jerry Hardman-Jones, Courtesy of the Henry Moore Institute
Steven Claydon, A Setting for Ambivalent Objects, 2013, Courtesy the artist and The British Museum; Andy Warhol, Silver Clouds, 1966, The Andy Warhol Museum. Photo: Jerry Hardman-Jones, Courtesy of the Henry Moore Institute

This is a joint post by Dr. Lara Eggleton of Folly Matters and Dr. Marin R. Sullivan of Sculptural Things.

In the wake of the de-installation of Indifferent Matter: From Object to Sculpture at the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds (25 July – 20 October 2013), two friends and art historians decided to co-write a blog based on our own  conversations about the exhibition and on a casual interrogation of one of the show’s curators, Pavel Pyś (and the mineralogist consultant for the show, Mike Rumsey), over Japanese noodles. The exhibition made waves and rustled feathers, particularly evident through a public programme that included talks by Peter Osborne and Richard Checketts, often calling into account its curatorial motivations.

The controversy sprung mainly from the decision to showcase a number of objects that are clearly – and in some cases famously – designated as artworks alongside artefacts and things not commonly placed within a fine art context such as ‘Neolithic jades, a new mineral named during the course of the exhibition, fragments of Roman sculpture and a collection of eoliths.’ All of the objects included in the exhibition, were presented on as equal formal terms as possible, with only the most basic information on small wall labels. As a result, all of the sculptural things on view were equally decontextualized, extricated from their historical or art historical specificity. The intention of the exhibition was to question at what point (or perhaps points) does an object, become not just thing but also a work of art, and once labelled as such, in this case a sculpture, how does it ‘sit’ in time. The elephant in the exhibition space, so to speak, was the fact that the art objects, when paired with natural or ‘artefactual’ objects, were robbed of some art historical authority – a result which proved offensive to some, intriguing to others, and was perhaps totally lost to those with limited specialist knowledge. Continue reading “An Indifferent Matter?”