Emperor’s New Clothes? Roger Hiorns at the Galerie Rudolfinum.

Call me philistine. Call me old-fashioned. Call me ignorant. Call me reactionary. Call me stupid. Call me conservative. Call me stick-in-the-mud.

But, call me whatever you like….I can’t see the point of this:


You’re looking at a ground up jet engine. It’s metal dust on the fine parquet floor of the Rudolfinum Gallery in Prague and it’s been put there deliberately.

This installation/sculpture/work of art/’smudge of rubbish on the floor’ is one of the exhibits at Roger Hiorns’ show:

Rudolfinum, Prague.

(Note that the naked youth shown on the gallery’s website will only be there on Saturdays in June (so I missed that particular cherry on the cake).)

Of course, bringing art to Prague is something like taking coals to Newcastle. You’re pretty much on a hiding to nothing. Not surprising therefore that I found myself admiring the gallery itself, even the attendants’ chairs, more than the installations themselves.

Call me this or that, but I find conceptual art difficult to swallow (metal dust in particular sticks in the gullet). There are often ‘ideas’ in art, and who’s to say where vision, concept, idea, thought, thesis, ideology, even politics, merge into each other and are elevated or subdued by form, beauty, ugliness, and so on, but if an idea is the only thing that an artist has to offer then surely it mustn’t be intellectually shallow or indecipherable. It must be a very good idea indeed, and he must be very persuasive of it. In this case I can’t work out what the ideas are, and no, obscurity doesn’t add to the charm.

Is there something interesting in Hiorns’ juxtaposition of objects and flesh that I’m missing? I see nothing in it, and nothing new either. The ruin of a jet engine is the un-pretty ruin of a jet engine, and I don’t see how it means anything more if a naked youth is sitting on it.

But, surprisingly, Roger Hiorns is a respected British artist (he nearly won the Turner Prize in 2009) and it must have cost a lot to haul his junk from the UK. This is what Wikipedia has to say about him:

Roger Hiorns (born 1975) is a British artist. He was nominated for the Turner Prize in 2009.

He uses materials and convolutions to affect transformations on found objects, social encounters and urban situations. Fictional scenarios are made real, fire emerges from storm drains, perfume permeates metal surfaces, and crystals colonise industrial objects, naked youths contemplate fire, a clear plastic object becomes the focus of prayer, a boys choir play dead, a proposal to bury a passenger jet plane.

I can make no sense of this.

Here are some more from the Rudolfinum:



Now, I do not advise you NOT to go to see the exhibition. I went out of curiosity and didn’t expect to like it, but sometimes it’s just as important to test one’s feelings and thoughts against what one doesn’t like as against what one does.


Was I entertained? NO.

Was my imagination enlarged? NO.

Was I astonished by the artist’s extraordinary skills? NO.

Do I now see the world in a different light? NO.

Do I now see some ordinary objects in a different light? NO.

Do I know more about the world? NO.

Was I moved by the ugliness of the world? NO.

Was I moved by the beauty of the world? NO.

Was I shocked? NO.

Do I know more about aeronautical engineering? NO.

Was I poorer for the experience? YES, but only by about 200 CZK.

One thought on “Emperor’s New Clothes? Roger Hiorns at the Galerie Rudolfinum.

  1. Great post! I don’t think could ever appreciate the work aesthetically, but I am definitely intrigued. The work seems very derivative of early Dada work. Very Duchampian to be more precise. Perhaps the work is merely a homage to that era? Regardless it is nothing new. Appropriation is played out. Perhaps the artist was just trying to see how much he could get away with? The metal dust doesn’t interest me at all and is probably severely dangerous to breathe in, but the other assemblage stuff carries a hint of cleverness.


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