Magazine article Artforum International

Thing Theories: Rirkrit Tiravanija Talks with Sarah Sze about "Triple Point," 2013, Her Project for the United States Pavilion at the 55th Venice Biennale

Magazine article Artforum International

Thing Theories: Rirkrit Tiravanija Talks with Sarah Sze about "Triple Point," 2013, Her Project for the United States Pavilion at the 55th Venice Biennale

Article excerpt

RIRKRIT TIRAVANIJA: What was your starting point when you began thinking about making something in the US pavilion? Were you engaged with the space itself or the history of the place?

SARAH SZE: I'd say both. The pavilion, which is from 1930, is loosely based on a small Palladian villa. You walk in and there's the rotunda with its two symmetrical wings. There's a whole hierarchy around space in this Palladian idea, and I was immediately intrigued by how I might change that hierarchy. The pavilion is also a funny space, circulationwise, because when you walk in you usually have to choose whether to go left or right, and then you have to double back on yourself. This time, the front door won't be used: I'm making one of the emergency exits into the entrance.

RT: So you are creating a very clear narrative in terms of how people walk through the space?

SS: Yes, exactly. The first room that you see when you enter the building slows you down. It forces you to stop. You are confronted with an iconic shape and recognize its function--it's like a planetarium--but there's an effort and a frustration that you recognize as well. It has to do with the aspiration of modeling complex systems, and its futility. If the work in the first room has a lot of presence, then in the second room all of that dwindles down. You feel an absence. In the third room, the rotunda, you have to find the work. Instead of using it as a central space, I'm putting work in one of the closets--I'm treating it as a kind of periphery. And after that--do you remember that long wall of windows?

RT: Yes.

SS: It's this awkward gash in the side of the building that was done in 1970.1 love how they just slashed open one of the walls, going completely against the building's rigorous symmetry--it's an interesting part of its history. Afterward, the pavilion became landmarked, so you can never do anything like that again.

RT: How are you using this window?

SS: It's often been walled up, but I'm leaving it uncovered: It's a crucial part of the show. I'm thinking about the indoor space acting like an outdoor space and the outdoor space acting like an indoor space. So I'm installing a work outdoors that climbs the front of the facade to the top of the building. It cuts diagonally and asymmetrically across the building, and it comes down through this wall of windows.

I'm trying to show the relationship between the sculpture and the building. I was thinking about the rotunda as a kind of compass, and the interior pieces refer to this as well: They ask how you might use sculpture to locate yourself within a plethora of information. I like the idea of a sculpture with the ambition to actually do something practical like that. But in many ways the works are purposefully complete failures at doing this: It's an impossible task. Like an encyclopedia, the work is out of date the minute you complete it. So the important thing is that they are remnants of that ambition rather than themselves the success of that ambition. They're all very fragile, so I hope to reflect the absurdity of the idea as well.

RT: A lot of your things are fragile; it's hard to imagine them outdoors. Did you use different materials for the piece that's outside?

SS: Yeah. A lot of the materials come from the garden itself--rocks, moss, plants, wood, not to mention water and wind. There's a huge tree in the courtyard that also becomes part of the work. These elements are combined with materials designed to be waterproof and weatherproof: rocks made of Tyvek, photos printed on Tyvek, rope, clamps, buckets, packaging, plastic survival gear, aluminum tools.

RT: Where did you find these materials? Were you in Venice looking around the boat shops and hardware stores?

SS: Yes, we've been collecting things throughout Venice, and it's interesting what you can and can't get. I'm using a lot of rocks and stones for the show, and you cannot get big, natural rocks in Venice, because they simply don't exist. …

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