Phyllida Barlow – ‘Sculpture as a Restless Object’ | Tate Britain Commission


Very rarely does a work leave the studio in a crate and emerge from the crate as it’s meant to be in the space, certainly with these larger installations. I think when I’m actually in the process of making the work in the studio I never consider the audience. It’s a private relationship between myself and the production of the work. That’s an entirely different matter when it comes to installing the work. In some ways, that’s the moment of maximum fear because I’m entering a space almost without a script. You could say I’ve got the words, but I have no idea what the overall construction of those words may be. It’s going to be a very dynamic process. For me, it is a form of choreography. Who is the audience and how will the work entice, lure, control them within the space? The work attempts to make the viewers or the audience be choreographed into a certain kind of looking so that they become another component of the work. I wanted to look at sculpture as a restless object where the whole of the sculptural form was open to scrutiny and not just determined by where it landed on the ground. So the whole idea was to keep the floor completely empty so the audience was then able to examine the suspended objects all at different heights. One of the things I very much wanted, that also was about how to experience sculpture was to have a staircase where the public could go up the staircase in order to see the sculptures that they had just experienced on the ground from above. It would have to been an enormous structure in the space to allow that to happen so I decided to make this kind of ghost staircase which is the kind of memory of that staircase and also something that takes us up into this amazing ceiling into space. Almost all of it has been made from recycled offcuts, actually, offcuts that have stockpiled in the studio. I always think of myself as really a rather uninteresting artist in that respect in that I’m just doing something that’s as old as the hills. So the idea that there’s anything extraordinary about what I’m doing just doesn’t enter my head it seems completely normal. It seems to be part of what making sculpture is.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *