Roger Hiorns



Not on display

Roger Hiorns born 1975
Performance, person, bench and fire
Overall display dimensions variable
Presented by the artist 2018


Untitled 2005–10 is a sculpture comprising a black metal bench that is intermittently inhabited by a naked youth and a lit flame. The sculpture also functions without the presence of the youth or the flame and, in this case, sets up an anticipation of presence. According to the wishes of the exhibiting institution, a youth can become part of the sculpture by occupying the bench in sessions of roughly fifteen minutes each over an agreed period of time. Once the youth is present and fully disrobed, a gallery attendant can choose to set light to the gel which ignites the flame on the metal bench, although this is not necessary for the sculpture to be activated. On a prepared area of the bench, enough flame gel to allow for approximately nine to fifteen minutes of flame is lit. The youth and the flame are then present together. Once the flame is extinguished, through the exhaustion of the flame gel, the youth may take leave of the bench.

Hiorns has explained that his intention in Untitled 2005–10 was to make a work that was based on the material possibilities of ambiguity, stating, ‘I remember at the time talking about the possibility of using ambiguity itself as a tool, or as a material.’ (Email correspondence with Tate curator Hattie Spires, 24 April 2018.) The sculpture is the first in the artist’s so-called ‘Youth’ series, in which his intention was to put ‘the human at the centre of the artwork’ (ibid.). Additionally, he wanted to explore making an artwork that used time as a tool in the work’s composition. The bench may eventually suffer the effects of time, but the figure occupying it will always be a young man. In this way, Hiorns simultaneously captures a snapshot of youth in all its awkwardness and potential, whilst promising an evolving picture of youth with each future presentation of the work.

In its previous life, the bench used in the sculpture was sited on the Thamesmead Estate in Bermondsey in south east London and was the arena for a group of youths to meet and, in the artist’s words, ‘mildly transgress their environment’ (ibid.). It is important for Hiorns that the bench itself retains the markings of being set alight in an act of arson brought on by boredom. He has said:

This moment I find fascinating and useful to focus on; that a youth at that moment is transitioning his behaviour to that of an act of environmental change, be it in this case an antisocial occurrence. I feel that behaviour and, importantly, the modulation and proposal of new behaviours, is perhaps an important step for art-making: an artist proposing new behaviours, moving us beyond a codified and established set of ideas of how to behave now in the world … New behaviours and the proposal of new behaviours will open new space for us to eventually occupy. It’s interesting to see the ignition and the presence of the youth as a progressive motion forward.

Further reading
Lisa Le Feuvre and Tom Morton (eds.), British Art Show 7: In the Days of the Comet, exhibition catalogue, South Bank Centre, London 2010, reproduced p.88.
Charlotte Higgins, ‘Artist Roger Hiorns fills Wakefield Warehouse with Naked Young Men’, Guardian, 29 August 2013.
Penelope Curtis, Sculpture: Vertical, Horizontal, Closed, Open, London 2017, reproduced p.289.

Hattie Spires
April 2018

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