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Turner prize artist Mark Leckey reveals plans for new exhibition

  • @arifa_akbar

Mark Leckey, a Turner prize-winning artist, has likened a Henry Moore sculpture to a Samsung refrigerator, calling them both highly marketable brands that trade off the legacy of their names.

Leckey, who has famously incorporated a fridge in past artworks, now plans to “speak” to a large Henry Moore sculpture as part of his upcoming exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery in London, opening this Friday, the Independent can reveal. His appearance at the gallery will form one of four such live performances to be staged by Leckey, free of charge, starting from 26 May.

Comparing the Moore sculpture, with a heavily branded item such as a Samsung fridge, he said there were distinct similarities between the two.

“In a way, they are both ubiquitous. The Henry Moore Foundation’s role is similar to that of Samsung’s role – to get Henry Moore’s name out there to as wide an audience as possible,” he said.

He suggested that revered artworks such as a piece by Moore were being emulated by intelligent, state-of-the-art technologies and machines such as a highly developed fridge. “These things we live with are kind of equivalent to a Henry Moore. The Moore sculptures are no more elevated than a Samsung fridge.”

In a live performance, Leckey will engage with Moore’s gigantic sculpture, Upright Motive Number 9, and hope to “coax it to reveal its thoughts”. He will be aided by a specially crafted sound system which will use low bass frequencies and vibrations. The performance has been named BigBoxStatueAction, and it has been especially designed to suit the gallery’s acoustics.

“It’s communication by trying to find the right [sound] frequency, like a sonar reading of something, so that the sound is not just audible but physical. The Henry Moore sculpture will start to resonate in the same way as physical communication. I’m trying to touch the statue in some way. “I’m exploring the idea of an object that is fixed and motionless, but looking for a way to make it animated,” he said.

The Moore Foundation has lent Leckey the 8ft sculpture for the event, over the period of the exhibition, closing on 26 June.

Asked by the gallery’s director, Julia Peyton Jones, why he chose a Moore sculpture, he replied: For one, he’s British, which I think is important. It’s got a relationship to this gallery and he’s like a brand himself. Henry Moore’s almost got his own font, his own brand design….I don’t know what I think of Henry Moore, I find the works weirdly foreign. But the process of doing this is about trying to find out if I do actually like it. The more I think about BigBox, the more I think it’s a better form of art criticism. Instead of writing about a work, you set up a relationship with it where you can try and correspond with it directly and see what it has to offer.”

Leckey has already produced a video work which gives a Samsung fridge a voice, which will also be exhibited at the Serpentine. Last week, he composed the work on the gallery’s premises, turning one of its rooms into a green-screen space in order to record the video work, GreenScreenRefridgeratorAction, for which he occasionally inhaled from a canister of fridge coolant. He presented a similar ‘live performance’ with a fridge in New York last autumn which has since become a hit on YouTube.

Speaking about the growing popularity of public sculptures, meanwhile, Leckey said many were rubbish, represented the fashion of the day, and aged quickly. “If is very obvious, walking around a city such as London, to see which ones are from the 1950s and which are from the 1970s. They go out of fashion and some look really ugly or kitchy. I think a lot of them are rubbish, a lot of them date very quickly, but then a lot of art is like that too,” he said.

Leckey, who lives in London but grew up in the Wirral, won the Turner prize in 2008 for various works including his best known video work, Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore, a visual history of the underground dance scene from the 1970s to the ‘90s.

In 2003, he attempted a non-verbal form of communication with a Jacob Epstein sculpture, Jacob and the Angel, in the Tate Gallery’s large Duveen space. The Moore sculpture, however, is far taller than the Epstein.