Sarah Sze: Triple Point

Sarah Sze, Triple Point (Pendulum), 2013, salt, water, stone, string, projector, video, pendulum, and mixed media, dimensions variable.

IN A 2010 episode of the reality TV show Hoarders, a woman named Julie justifies her compulsive collecting by insisting that her scraps of fabric, empty bottles, discarded knickknacks, and other Dumpster-dive finds are materials for future art projects—one man’s trash is someone else’s found object. Another episode features a sympathetic Boston man named Dale, who has a brilliant coinage for his piled-up aesthetic: “stuff-after-stuff-after-stuff-dot-com.”

At the forefront of contemporary-art explorations of stuff-after-stuff-after-stuff, Sarah Sze creates exquisitely conceived and executed installations. Utilizing the ordinary things of everyday life (toothpicks, Q-tips, ladders), she produces great gravity-defying masses and immersive site-specific environments that wholly reconfigure their locations. This catalogue documents Triple Point, her commission for the US pavilion at the 2013 Venice Biennale, which conjures a series of vocational arenas (such as a planetarium, a laboratory, a tinkerer’s workshop) and references observational tools like pendulums, compasses, and weather vanes. An introduction by Carey Lovelace and Holly Block discusses how Sze reimagined the pavilion’s neoclassical architecture by altering its entries and exits and redirecting the flow of bodies through its typically symmetrical spaces; lovely photographs by Tom Powel give a sense of the overall work as well as intimate access to its meticulous details.

In a well-written essay, critic and art historian Johanna Burton focuses on gesture, production, and value across Sze’s oeuvre, arguing that the artist’s career can be likened to an “ecosystem, where different motifs are always already present, existing subcutaneously and emerging at various points like a fungus—or a virus—and interacting with different motifs before disappearing or, better, by simply assuming new, utterly surprising form.” The book also includes an illuminating conversation between novelist Jennifer Egan and Sze that emphasizes the role of narrative in Sze’s sequencing, as well as her understanding that her materials “perform many roles simultaneously.” This dialogue segues into Egan’s science-fiction short story “Black Box,” which was originally published as a series of tweets. Though Egan’s story has only loose associative ties to Sze’s Biennale work, it underscores their shared ability to imbue mundane objects with unearthly powers—no less than other stuff-after-stuff-after-stuff enthusiasts like Julie, or Dale, or any of us.