‘It’s a Place for Physical Philosophy’: Watch Artist Liz Magor Explore the Role Her Studio Plays in Her Sculptural Practice

As part of a collaboration with Art21, hear news-making artists describe their inspirations in their own words.

Production still from the Art21 "Extended Play" film, "Liz Magor: Everyone Should Have a Studio." © Art21, Inc. 2017.

In a museum gallery, a toggle-button winter coat hangs by its hood from a wall—it is clearly unworn, but instead of hanging limply it takes on the shape of an invisible wearer. On a large table in the center of the room, a single paper bag lies crinkled and empty, and a pile of white sheets is folded nearby. Based on that description alone, it might sound like the setting of a haphazard, if not totally unrealistic domestic scene—but all of these works, uncannily detailed and accurate—are sculptures, made of solid materials and painstakingly crafted.

The work is by the Canadian artist Liz Magor, on view as part of the current exhibition “The Rise and The Fall” at The Douglas Hyde in Ireland through September 24. Magor’s more than 40-year career has focused on this surreal depiction of everyday objects, which, when removed from their association to their function, become contemplative “concerned protagonists.”

Installation view "Liz Magor: The Rise and The Fall" at The Douglas Hyde. Courtesy of The Douglas Hyde.

Installation view “Liz Magor: The Rise and The Fall” at The Douglas Hyde. Courtesy of The Douglas Hyde.

In an exclusive interview filmed as part of Art21’s series Extended Play, Liz Magor reflected on the role that her Vancouver-based art studio plays in her practice. “I keep the studio in a very rudimentary state in terms of the technology and the systems that I use,” Magor explained. “I’m not investing in equipment—I’m not a factory.”

By relying only on herself and the tools around her, Magor is able to move quickly between ideas and projects, taking up the sculptural construction of a tiny cast-off cigarette butt or the replica of a table filled with shoe boxes made from wood, porcelain, and fabric. Her studio is a kind of sanctuary for her creative work. “This might sound pretentious, but it’s like a place for physical philosophy,” she said, laughing.

“I talk a lot about the ‘below the radar’ or the ‘ever-present-but-unacknowledged’ things,” she continued, referring to her focus on the banal subjects she works with. “To me, these are part of that realm because they’re brilliant… And I want my mold-making to register them.”

Watch the video, which originally appeared as part of Art21’s series Extended Play, below.Liz Magor: The Rise and The Fall” is on view at the Douglas Hyde through September 24, 2023.

This is an installment of “Art on Video,” a collaboration between Artnet News and Art21 that brings you clips of news-making artists. A new season of the nonprofit Art21’s flagship series Art in the Twenty-First Century is available now on PBS. Catch all episodes of other series, like New York Close Up and Extended Play, and learn about the organization’s educational programs at Art21.org.

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