Works on the Floor Symposium

The symposium schedule and speaker biographies and abstracts are available for download here


Quantock Wood Circle (1981) by Richard Long is a floor sculpture consisting of 285 weathered and broken pine branches collected by the artist from the Quantock Hills in Somerset, near his hometown of Bristol, England. Following the artist’s instructions, the sticks are placed in any combination in a circle on the floor, rendering each display unique. Since the 1960s, Long has created ephemeral artworks based upon his walks in the English countryside and abroad. Often embedded in the landscape, these site-specific works blur the boundaries between sculpture, photography, and performance.

In Quantock Wood Circle, materials collected while walking are brought into the museum, activating the floor and raising questions about our relationship with space, place, and nature.

The installation of this sculpture at the Yale Center for British Art (YCBA) will be marked by a symposium, Works on the Floor. The removal of sculpture from the plinth was a defining moment in postwar Western art, allowing for a more direct encounter between object and viewer. British sculptor Anthony Caro (Long’s tutor) pioneered this approach in the early 1960s, creating welded-steel objects that extend from the floor into the viewer’s space. Equally radical was the decision of subsequent generations of sculptors, including Long, to lay sculpture flat on the floor, a move that redefined the relationship between subject and object by giving the viewer an omniscient viewpoint from above.

Taking Long’s work as a provocation, this symposium will explore how artists from around the world have exploited the floor to interrogate ideas of embodied viewership, identity, land, and modern sculpture. In doing so, the event aims to offer new frameworks for understanding the conceptual decision to place works on the floor.

Study Room Display

Works from the collection by Richard Long (b. 1945) will be on view in the Study Room on December 15, 2022. Richard Long’s creative practice centers on the fundamental human act of walking. He uses painting, photography, sculpture, and text to record his fleeting encounters with nature. The display will highlight works on paper from the YCBA collection, offering a broader picture of his artistic output.


8:50–9 am
Welcome Remarks

9–10:30 am
Panel One: The Body and the Floor

9–9:05 am
Chair: Joanna Fiduccia, Assistant Professor, Department of the History of Art, Yale University

9:05–9:25 am
Shrouds and Relics: The Floor as Symbolic Space
Pepe Karmel, Professor of Art History, New York University

9:25–9:45 am
Rummana Hussain: Feminist Muslimhood and the Aesthetics of the Floor
Shruti Parthasarathy, PhD Student, University of Wisconsin-Madison

9:45–10:05 am
Walking on Doris Salcedo’s Floor-Based Artworks
Michael Tymkiw, Senior Lecturer in Art History, University of Essex, UK

10:05–10:30 am

10:30–10:45 am


10:45 am–12:15 pm
Panel Two: Land, City, and the Planet

10:45–10:50 am
Chair: Alexis Lowry, Curator, Dia Art Foundation, New York

10:50–11:10 am
Grounding Sculpture: From Earth Alienation to Planetarity
Joy Sleeman, Professor Art History and Theory, Slade School of Art

11:10–11:30 am
When the Floor Falls Out
Marin Sullivan, Independent Art Historian

11:30–11:50 am
Process, Site, and Entanglement in the Sculpture of Maren Hassinger
Elyse Speaks, Associate Professor of the Practice, Modern & Contemporary, Notre Dame

11:50–12:15 pm

12:15–1 pm


1–2:30 pm
Panel Three: Sculptural Dialogues

11:05 pm

Chair: Molleen Theodore, Associate Curator of Programs, Yale University Art Gallery

1:05–1:25 pm
"Brancusi is our model": Scott Burton and the Cultural Politics of the Pedestal
Jonathan Vernon, Associate Lecturer, Courtauld Institute of Art

1:25–1:45 pm
Melvin Edwards Covers Anthony Caro: The Smokehouse Associates Interrogate and Reframe Modernism, c. 1968
John J. Curley, Associate Professor Contemporary Art and Rubin Faculty Fellow, Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, NC

1:45–2:05 pm
Olga Balema, Computer, 2021
Matilde Guidelli-Guidi, Associate Curator, Dia Art Foundation

2:05–2:30 pm

2:30–3 pm


3–4 pm
Artist Conversation
Karla Black talks with Rachel Stratton, Curatorial Postdoctoral Associate, YCBA

3:45–4 pm

Top image
Richard Long, Quantock Wood Circle (detail), 1981, courtesy of the artist and Sperone Westwater

Related events


Artist Conversation | Karla Black

Friday, December 16, 2022, 3–4 pm ET

Open House

Study Room Open House: Richard Long

Thursday, December 15, 2022, 10 am–4 pm ET


Richard Long: Quantock Wood Circle

Wednesday, August 24, 2022–Sunday, February 19, 2023