Ceal Floyer



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Not on display

Ceal Floyer born 1968
Vinyl record and record player
Overall display dimensions variable
Purchased 2007


The British artist Ceal Floyer’s sculpture Carousel comprises two components: a stereo and a ten-inch vinyl record. Displayed on a white wooden plinth that is roughly one metre high and houses the stereo’s speaker, the black, shop-bought turntable plays the record on repeat. The sounds produced are the pre-recorded noises of a working slide projector, its motor and the distinctive click of a carousel mechanism’s circular movement that would have been created as each slide moved in and out of the projector’s beam of light.

The work was produced by Floyer in London in 1996, two years after she graduated from Goldsmiths College. It was made by simply assembling its constituent elements, all available from high street shops, with the exception of the record, which was specially commissioned by the artist.

The work’s title refers to the movement of the sculpture (the turntable’s platter) and the sound of the movement of a slide projector’s rotating mechanism. Yet while the former is visible, the latter is not, collapsing and layering presence and absence through seeing and hearing. This operation creates a kind of indeterminacy of knowledge fostering a space for reflection on perception, thought and language. The artist noted in 2001 that her ‘titles, in fact, are meant as an index, a way of understanding any false promises’ because all the materials are already there for the viewer, with ‘language, or rather words’ as one of them (quoted in Ikon Gallery 2001, pp.7–9).

Floyer’s post-conceptual practice employs everyday objects to open up new ways of thinking and perceiving the relations between objecthood and language, often implemented through the literal nature of the work’s display. As Floyer stated in 2002, ‘The more pared down an idea or its presentation, as is quite characteristic of the work I make, the more I think it can apply to another train of thought’ (quoted in Torp and Rosenberg 2002, p.16). This can be seen in Carousel, which short-circuits the play of meaning production between things, sounds and language. As the curator Bernard Fibicher has suggested, Carousel

instrumentalises the distance between objects, or between the object and its name, reducing that distance so much by way of revealing similarity, that one object may become identical with another, or with its name.
(Fibicher in Kunsthalle Bern 1999, unpaginated.)

Carousel is a seemingly simple assembly of objects that can be understood as an early work that addresses many of Floyer’s subsequent concerns, such as the slippage of meaning between objects and the senses and between reality and illusion. A similar collapse of perceptions is also evident in Bucket 1999, which consists of a standard black plastic container with a CD inside it playing back the pre-recorded sound of water dripping into a bucket, with no actual water present. Like Carousel, Floyer’s 2002 work Auto-Focus employs a slide projector, except this time the projector itself is present while the slides and the carousel are absent. As its title suggests, the machine, which rests on a metal armature, is made to function continuously in its focus mode, projecting only its white light again and again ad infinitum.

Further reading
Ceal Floyer, exhibition catalogue, Kunsthalle Bern, Bern 1999, unpaginated.
Ceal Floyer, exhibition catalogue, Ikon Gallery, Birmingham 2001.
Marianne Torp and Angela Rosenberg, Ceal Floyer, exhibition catalogue, Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen 2002.

David Bussel
June 2015

Supported by Christie’s.

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