Sarah Sze’s improvisational working method reveals her prior training as a painter. Her site-specific sculptural installations reflect what Tabish Khan, writing for The Londonist, has described as the “theme of the fragility of life and the natural world around us.” Made by accumulating and subtracting bits of organic and manmade materials, her compositions achieve monumentality through the careful placement of their constituent parts. Through her sculptures, the artist investigates how the stuff of the world acquires meaning. To this end she uses commonplace consumer products with little intrinsic value— scraps of paper, string, or twigs—which she poetically combines with delicate handmade objects. By incorporating articles she finds nearby, she establishes a relationship with the site of the work. Reused items from previous installations, however, receive different meanings as they traverse cultural contexts. By blurring the lines between found and crafted objects, Sze raises the question as to where her works begin and end. This effect is reinforced by the space in her work that she leaves for the elements of nature, which enables the gradual appropriation of her work by its surroundings. This simultaneous process of decay and growth underscores the connection between an object’s value and its lifespan.
Sze’s installation Landscape for an Event Suspended Indefinitely (2015) at the Giardino delle Vergini in the Arsenale is an imagined archeological site, the garden of a former convent. Offering various vistas, the work mobilizes the visitor’s gaze on a trajectory that alternates broad overviews with detailed moments. The interspersed sculptural objects, which suggest traces of human activity in the near and distant past, invite viewers to unearth multiple layers of evidence while they walk through the garden. As the plants and earth of the garden gradually merge with the sculptures, a sink and studio tools remain as an index of the artist’s activities.