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Review: Roger Hiorns/Art Institute of Chicago

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On the roof of the Art Institute’s Modern Wing, two jet engines lie naked under the sky.

For the installation “Untitled (Alliance),” British artist Roger Hiorns (born 1975) chose two Pratt and Whitney TF33 P9 turbofans and, with curator James Rondeau, placed them atop the Bluhm Family Terrace. Boeing provided major funding for the installation.

In the works for which Hiorns is better known, he’s been able to exercise complete authority over an environment or object, e.g., “Seizure” from 2008, wherein a London residence was filled with a chemical solution that precipitated blue crystal on every available surface. Here and now, rather than receiving an additional covering, the two jet engines have been mostly flayed of aluminum skin, their systems of control revealed.

Given the museum’s large collection of designed objects, the jet engines could bespeak the golden age of modern industrial design—but they don’t. Rather, on the terrace, the disintegrating engines confront the surrounding downtown architecture in an uncomfortable way: they are remainders of the horror when jet engines collide with buildings, and the ubiquitous corruption that results.

May 25, 1979: One jet engine separated from American Airlines Flight 191 on take-off from O’Hare International Airport.  271 people were killed as that McDonnell Douglas DC-10 exploded into the ground. In 1997 Boeing acquired McDonnell Douglas.

May 10, 2001: Boeing announced plans to relocate to Chicago, having been offered multimillion-dollar incentives by Illinois politicians including former governor and now federal inmate George Ryan.

September 11, 2001: Four Boeing aircrafts figured prominently in a massive act of terrorism.

Here, the artist’s creative act is further explained by a wall-mounted plaque, which states that Hiorns has enclosed pharmaceuticals inside the engines, but the pharmaceuticals cannot be seen. One must trust the story told to us, that the trauma will be mollified, by the party standing most to gain from deceit. (Paul Germanos)

Through September 19 at The Art Institute of Chicago, 111 S. Michigan.

4 Responses to “Review: Roger Hiorns/Art Institute of Chicago”

  1. noahbirch650 Says:

    Self indulgent rubbish.

  2. Abraham Ritchie Says:

    How is this self-indulgent?

  3. Paul Germanos Says:

    The metaphorical “umbrella” of security provided by American air power (1945-2000) is said to have allowed domestic activity of all sorts (constructive and destructive) to flourish.

    Considering air power: While not meant to deliver of an explosive payload, Hiorns claims to have chosen engines from a plane which contributed to the U.S. military effort via intelligence gathering missions.

    The purpose of the things (engines) on the roof was to bear aloft the men and machines which stood watch over and against the enemies of The People. However, in 2001, similar artifacts of Boeing technology were “co-opted” and “re-purposed” in order to create a sense of insecurity through terrorism.

    Maybe Hiorns’ story about the pharmaceutical content of his engines is meant to be understood as yet another ridiculous fantasy. Maybe we (Americans) are meant to consider whether we have been addicted to military spending in a manner akin to drug dependency? Security (read: happiness) is fleeting–whether it’s drug-induced, or resulting from technological innovation?

    Again: That same transportation technology which provided a sense of comfort, ease and security prior to 9/11 became the means through which insecurity filled the body politic.

    So, the “noahbirch650” comment might be relevant. The communications technology of the internet has been said to be a powerful tool for the purpose of building and sustaining community. Yet he/she provides an example of that same technology’s “virtual” anonymity facilitating an attack of sorts; even as in other cases the easy exercise of nominally editorial power on-line has been used to silence dissenting opinion altogether.

    For more on “transportation and telecommunication technologies,” in parallel to visual art, Karsten Lund has a good, open, questioning piece: “Out The Door and On The Move,” at the Studio Chicago blog, dated Monday, January 18, 2010.

    (No, given what’s written above, the irony of Studio Chicago’s use of Chicago’s visual art resources to “deconstruct” visual art, the studio, and Chicago, is not lost upon me.)

  4. mountshang Says:

    The A.I.C. put a video on You-Tube for this exhibit — and the link, plus some discussion, can be found here:

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