‘The Work Looks Like a Science Experiment’: Watch How Artist Sarah Sze Makes Order From Chaotic Arrangements of Random Objects

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

Sarah Sze in New York, 2015. ©Clint Spaulding/ Patrick McMullan.

When you walk up to the sixth floor of the newly redesigned and re-curated Museum of Modern Art in New York City, you’ll stumble upon what appears to be the contents of a mad scientist’s messy laboratory. Flung around into a massive circle there’s a ladder, string, stones, a box of crackers, Pringles cans, a Listerine bottle, strung-up photographs, water bottles… the list goes on.

To unassuming museum goers, this strange compilation of objects and detritus might seem haphazard, but every part of it has been thoughtfully selected by its creator, artist Sarah Sze. The MacArthur Award-winning artist has been winning acclaim around the world for her intricate accumulations of everyday objects, pushing the boundaries of what is considered sculpture.

Sarah Sze, <i>Triple Point (Pendulum)</i> (2013). Courtesy of the Museum of Modern Art.

Sarah Sze, Triple Point (Pendulum) (2013). Courtesy of the Museum of Modern Art.

In an exclusive interview with Art21, as part of its “Extended Play” series, Sze described the process of installing one of her works back in 2012, ahead of its debut at the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Nice, France. “The work looks like a science experiment,” she said, “like you come into someone’s studio, or someone’s lab, and you’re seeing the process as it happens.”

For the work in the video, The Uncountables (Encyclopedia), Sze re-constructed it when it was moved to France from its original installation in New York, ensuring that it would be reconstituted to reflect its new environment, and also to keep an aspect of spontaneity in the piece.

“I want the work to be an experience of something live,” she told Art21, equating the viewer’s interaction with the work as the experience of viewing sports or listening to jazz, so that “the viewer experiences that discovery that I have.”


Watch the video, which originally appeared as part of Art21’s Extended Play series, below. Sarah Sze’s installation “Triple Point (Pendulum)” is on view in the “Surrounds” show at the Museum of Modern Art through January 4, 2020. 

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

Follow Artnet News on Facebook:

Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.