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.
Panel One: The Body and the Floor
Chair: Joanna Fiduccia, Assistant Professor, Department of the History of Art, Yale University
Shrouds and Relics: The Floor as Symbolic Space
Pepe Karmel, Professor of Art History, New York University
Rummana Hussain: Feminist Muslimhood and the Aesthetics of the Floor
Shruti Parthasarathy, PhD Student, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Walking on Doris Salcedo’s Floor-Based Artworks
Michael Tymkiw, Senior Lecturer in Art History, University of Essex, UK
10:45 am–12:15 pm
Panel Two: Land, City, and the Planet
Chair: Alexis Lowry, Curator, Dia Art Foundation, New York
Grounding Sculpture: From Earth Alienation to Planetarity
Joy Sleeman, Professor Art History and Theory, Slade School of Art
When the Floor Falls Out
Marin Sullivan, Independent Art Historian
Process, Site, and Entanglement in the Sculpture of Maren Hassinger
Elyse Speaks, Associate Professor of the Practice, Modern & Contemporary, Notre Dame
Panel Three: Sculptural Dialogues
Chair: Molleen Theodore, Associate Curator of Programs, Yale University Art Gallery
"Brancusi is our model": Scott Burton and the Cultural Politics of the Pedestal
Jonathan Vernon, Associate Lecturer, Courtauld Institute of Art
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
Olga Balema, Computer, 2021
Matilde Guidelli-Guidi, Associate Curator, Dia Art Foundation
Karla Black talks with Rachel Stratton, Curatorial Postdoctoral Associate, YCBA
A recording of this program will be made available online. Please check back here soon.