Fabrication: To Make

Think of an artist as maker, Homo Faber, and what naturally follows is a procession of verbs. Noticing that numerous writers have used action words when talking about Harrison’s work, sculptor Richard Serra’s 1967-68 Verb List Compilation came to mind: to split, to chip, to suspend, to gather, to scatter...
“Harrison makes facing into a verb -- or more accurately, she literalized the action implicit in the gerund.”
David Joselit [1]
“...I want to assert the formal ubiquity of 'grasping' as a mode of composition in Harrison’s art.”
David Joselit [2]
“Rachel Harrison does not cast or carve but, in several senses, set up her works: erect, of course, but also establish, plan, and maybe even trick them into situations where they will be caught or blamed.
John Kelsey [3]
In other words, she’s playing out, in her very own way, Jasper Johns’ laconic description of process: “Take an object. Do something to it. Do something else to it. Do something else to it.”

[1] David Joselit, Touch to Begin, in Banks, Eric, and Sarah Valdez, eds. Rachel Harrison: Museum With Walls, Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College, Annandale on Hudson; Whitechapel Gallery, London; and Portikus, Frankfurt am Main, 2010, p.197
[2] ibid., p. 187
[3]John Kelsey, Sculpture in an Abandoned Field, If I Did It monograph, Zurich, Migros Museum and JRP Ringler, 2007, p.120
“Sometimes I have rules and then I break them.'' Rachel Harrison


But scratch the idea of a formula:

Although their work differs radically in almost every way (imagine a vigorous argument) certain concerns bridge the Harrison and Serra oeuvres: the time it takes to navigate a work, the physicality of the viewer in space, the predominance of the body in its apprehension.
After our initial hunch about this, we discovered Harrison’s own words:
“I am interested in the experience of people walking around things. In that way I feel related to an artist like Richard Serra...'' RH
You've been working as an artist forover forty years now. What were some of your earliest interests?
When I first started, what was very, very important to me was dealing with the nature of process. So what I had done is I'd written a verb list: to roll, to fold, to cut, to dangle, to twist...and I really just worked out pieces in relation to the verb list physically in a space. Now, what happens when you do that is you don't become involved with the psychology of what you're making, nor do you become involved with the after image of what it's going to look like. So, basically it gives you a way of proceding with material in relation to body movement, in relation to making, that divorces from any notion of metaphor, any notion of easy imagery.
As the work becomes more extensive and I had a need to walk into and through and around it, then you get involved with what effect the work has physically on your body as you walk. So, time and movement became really crucial to how I deal with what I deal with, not only sight and boundary, but how one walks through a piece and what one feels and registers in terms of one's own body in relation to another body. So, in that sense, as the pieces became bigger and you walked into and through and around them, they took on other concerns which were more psychological, even though implied and not specific than in the early work, where process was the key to organizing the principle of how one would structure something.
...particularly in the ellipses, and now in the spirals, one's body in relation to an unknown place that's revealed as you walk in it has probably a bigger psychological factor than the earlier work. Now, that could be what people respond to; I don't know. Particularly when these are being built now, the spirals, there is a sense that as the piece unfolds it's ongoing and you really have no idea where the path is going to lead you. And that's very, very different than the earlier work which was very axiomatic in that, once you saw it, you understood how it went up, how it was being held together and how you could enter and walk in, through, and around it. So, it was all revealed. Here, there's more of a concealment before it's revealed...