Cuttings (Supplement) is Simon Starling's largest exhibition since winning the Turner Prize in 2005 and addresses the various ecologies (environmental, political, economic, cultural, and art historical) that are the critical core of Starling's practice.
Curated by Gregory Burke
Cuttings (Supplement) is Simon Starling's largest exhibition since winning the Turner Prize in 2005 and follows on his exhibition Cuttings at Museum für Gegenwartkunst, Basel, in the summer of that year. Cuttings (Supplement) features nine major works produced between 2002 and 2007, including a new Henry Moore-related commission for The Power Plant, Infestation Piece (Musselled Moore), which addresses the various ecologies (environmental, political, economic, cultural, and art historical) that continue to be the critical core of Starling's practice. Also included is Island for Weeds (Prototype) – which debuted at the Venice Biennale in 2003 when Starling represented Scotland – as well as Bird in Space 2004 (2004), Tabernas Desert Run (2004), By night the Swiss buy cheap-rate electricity from their neighbours which they use to pump water into holding reservoirs. By day they use the stored water to generate hydroelectric power which they then sell back to their neighbours at peak-rate prices (after Christopher Williams / After Jean-Luc Godard) (2005), Autoxylopyrocycloboros (2006), 24hr Tangenziale (2006), Nachbau (Reconstruction) (2007), and Los Angeles, 3rd–5th March 1969 // To indefinite expansion (2007).
“When I'm making art,” says Starling, “I'm thinking up novels in a way…I'm involved in an activity which is similar to that of a narrator.” This approach of active narration epitomizes his new commission for The Power Plant. The work alludes to the close relationship between British sculptor Henry Moore and the city of Toronto, which has one of the most significant collections of Moore's sculpture in the world and commissioned one of Moore's most important public works, The Archer (1964–65). The commission provoked a public outcry in Toronto, due in part to nationalist opposition over foreign artists receiving public funds. The objections were thwarted by enthusiasts who raised private money to purchase the sculpture, thereby cementing a relationship between Moore and Toronto that resulted in Moore awarding the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) a significant selection of his plaster originals and works on paper.
Previously, a small number of Moore's sculptures entered the AGO's collection at the recommendation of gallery adviser Anthony Blunt, the art historian and member of the infamous spy ring that betrayed British secrets to the Soviet Union during the Second World War. They included the bronze Warrior with Shield (1953–54) that evolved, in Moore's words, from “a pebble I found on the seashore in the summer of 1952, and which reminded me of the stump of a leg, amputated at the hip.” Moore's fascination with the suggestive formal possibilities of natural objects particularly interested Starling, and provided a jumping off point for his sculptural commission.
Subsequently Starling became fascinated with the invasion of the Eastern European zebra mussel throughout the North American Great Lakes. Marine biologists speculate that the zebra mussel entered the Great Lakes in 1988 via ballast water from large ocean-going trading vessels. Native to the Black Sea, the mussels have become a dominant aquatic species in the Great Lakes, with both beneficial and destructive ecological repercussions, through filtering pollutants from the lakes while also eliminating many native species. Starling combined his interests in Moore and the zebra mussel by creating a steel copy of Moore's bronze sculpture Warrior with Shield and submerging it into Lake Ontario for 18 months where it was gradually colonized by zebra mussels. The recently removed sculpture, titled Infestation Piece (Musselled Moore), is now covered with dried mussel shells, and forms the centerpiece of Starling's exhibition.
This dialogue with Moore is both an engagement with an artistic legacy and an examination of larger social, cultural and environmental contexts. The exhibition includes recent works that expand on these concerns. Island for Weeds (Prototype) (2003) alludes to the migration of the rhododendron and proposes a floating island to contain the non-native plant that is now being eradicated in Scotland. Bird in Space 2004 (2004) refers to Marcel Duchamp's importation of Brancusi's Bird in Space to the United States in 1927, when customs deemed it not art and imposed an import tax. Starling's work uses a large block of steel exported to the US from Romania, Brancusi's homeland, shortly after George Bush dropped tariffs designed to protect the US steel industry. As with Infestation Piece (Musselled Moore), these works refer to multiple journeys – those that are constricted and shaped by the processes of culture.
Born in 1967 in Epsom, England, Simon Starling is a graduate of the Glasgow School of Art. He won the Turner Prize in 2005 and was shortlisted for the Hugo Boss Prize in 2004. Currently, he lives in Copenhagen and is Professor of Fine Arts at the Staedelschule, in Frankfurt. He has exhibited widely, including at the Bienal de São Paulo (2004) and the Busan Biennal (2006), and represented Scotland at the Venice Bienniale in 2003. In the past five years, Starling has also had solo exhibitions at Dundee Contemporary Arts, Scotland (2002); the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney (2002); Villa Arson, Nice (2003); and Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Basel (2005). Upcoming solo exhibitions in 2008 include MASS MoCA, North Adams, MA; Kunstraum Dornbirn, Germany; The Modern Institute, Glasgow; and Galleria Franco Noero, Turin.
This exhibition has been given Special Recognition as part of the 2008 OAAG Awards.