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.