TheClick the picture on my laptop. When he reasserts himself, I look at what appears to be a frozen explosion in time. Sparkling embers impossibly hanging in the air as pictures creep across: a glimpse of the blue sky, rainbow breaks, a knife scraping away yellow chalk.

I am in London. Sarah Szei – who is trying to give me a glimpse of her latest iPad innovation – is inside the Cartier Foundation in Paris, Where she and her assistants install the installationFirst time there in over 20 years. She walks into the next room and passes the camera over a crisp white circle of crushed salt on the floor, surrounded by little piles of tin foil and water bottles.

These are surprising and somewhat bewildering visions, perhaps more so due to the incorrect Zoom connection. But with Sze (pronounced Zee) it’s often the case. The American sculptor creates glasses that defy interpretation, and often defy gravity as well. she Planetariums made from Office projectors and fans; Create installations from sleeping bags, gravel balls and disco; He filled the drawer of a Japanese museum b Hurricane-like sculpture Pieces of plastic washed away, Plants and tapes.

The new Sze Sculpture follows the fallen sky in Paris.
The Salt Circle … the new Sze sculpture follows the fallen sky in Paris. Photography: Ed Alcock / The Guardian

Szy, which speaks 19 to a dozen, is itself a bit of a hurricane, albeit intensely thoughtful. It’s hard to predict which things you will pick up, and what they will look like when you place them. “I am interested in the idea of ​​sculpture as a tool for understanding where we are in time – in the world, you know?” Says.

Szie’s new work in Cartier is somehow a reflection on what life has been like for millions of us in 2020: a world divided into parts that we still try to pull together. authorized Night and day It’s technically two pieces: an illuminated planet-like structure suspended in one room (Sze has a thing for planets); On the flip side is a floor sculpture that the pendulum swings lazily over (she has a thing for a pendulum, too).

Intricate detailing from Twice Twilight.
Intricate detailing from Twice Twilight. Photography: Ed Alcock / The Guardian

Walk around and see the colorful projections of videos extracted from the Internet, biological cell multiplication, card tricks, and the garden slowly growing: images that seem to speak of life in quarantine. The piece was planned for years – Szy slowly collects the ingredients – but it came together when she was locked up with her two children and husband in New York.

She explains that the images she collected reflect how, through the pandemic, we have come to more and more life through our jewel-colored screens. Also how, for some of us at least, time and space have melted into a meaningless haze: Zoom encounters with friends or colleagues in distant time zones, distant pub competitions and school lessons, none of which are actually real. “In our house, there are, for example, Zoom meetings with China, where someone tries to make dinner. It all happens once. Time and place fluctuate, they become blurred,” she says.

Back in March, Szy was about to head to the airport Another exhibition was held in Paris when the borders were suddenly closed. For this new machine, she was planning until a few weeks to oversee the installation remotely, just in case. “I really didn’t know if I would ever be able to attend. So that’s kind of exciting.” Are American citizens still barred from entering the European Union? She laughs. “They had to say I was absolutely necessary, to bring up this crazy thing.”

Images in Refraction (West) 2019.
Images in Refraction (West) 2019. Photography: Genevieve Hanson / Sarah Sze

The lockdown turned out to be a constructive period. Szy set up an improvised studio in her basement, and explored the print industry. She has also worked on homeless charities in New York and Militant artistsAnd and He was able to install another piece at La Guardia airport. Hundreds of photographs of the skies over New York are mounted on a grid of aluminum and steel that looks weightless, but comes in at five tons. “I was very fortunate,” she says. “The work never really stopped – just the logistics changed.”

However, Covid-19 was inevitable – not least for reasons Her husband is Siddhartha Mukherjee, a cancer specialist And the author of his book The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, which won a Pulitzer Prize for general fiction books. “You become so closely connected with everyone in your home and work, right? It was an incredible thing to watch – the urgency to try to come up with solutions and solve very difficult scientific questions.”

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People often think of szy pools in architectural terms – even as a kind of counter-architecture, where damp things float unbearably into space or form strict and esoteric formations. People have compared it to Jackson Pollock drip panels, whether they’re automatic or very accurate, or Russian Building Sculptures. Although they often resemble natural shapes such as clouds or waterfalls, in the words of critic Laura Hauptmann, “they do not describe something, but rather the way something behaves.”

Szy thinks about what she’s doing as a kind of science model or experiment – A. Means of interrogating space using objectsHe found a lot of them. An installation may be planned over a period of years, and it is carefully planned, but until you get to where you are working, you don’t quite know how you want to respond. Often times, she arranges bits of wire or small stones just hours before the show begins. “For me, it’s about the effects, it’s about the body, it’s about the physical, it’s about the material, but it’s also the passage. It can fade away in an instant.”

“Szy thinks about what she’s doing as a kind of scientific model”… Timekeeper 2016 (Rose). Photography: Sarah Sze Studio

There is something about the way the pandemic has brought home the complexity and fragility of life, and its tenuous interconnectedness, that makes Szy’s work seem new. You deplore this. “You do the work that you do and you don’t always know where it comes from. You are connected to the era, but there are so many deep connections that you don’t even know how to explain it.”

Born in 1969 in Boston, Szy began studying architecture (her father is an architect), but turned to fine art, And he often switched between worlds, hesitating to get stuck in either. Her adorable show came in 1996, when she filled a small space in Soho with hundreds of figurines made of toilet paper and shaped with her own toys. Arranged on metal shelves, they looked like bleached animal bones in some otherworldly natural history museum.

In 2003, after years of hectic work – sometimes four or five installations a year, each hard-won on site – I was awarded a MacArthur “Genius” Scholarship. The wider world faced it a decade later, When I represented the United States in 2013 Venice Biennale, Creating sculptures that exploded out of the sober neoclassical American pavilion as if they could not be contained. The New York Times said, “Anyone reading a list of elements in their complex composition might think that they are … what to pack on an Outward Bound trip extraordinary,” From paint cans, napkins, tape, to espresso cups and much more.

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Can you remember it clearly once it’s over? She replied, “I like doing shows in other countries that I leave and then never see again.” “But when I see action from a long time ago, it’s great because I remember the decisions that were made, exactly the moment I made them.”

What does her house look like? Are all paper clip drawers arranged by size and jeans folded in subtle shades of blue? She laughs and reminds me that she and Siddhartha have children. “I think I was a lot more aesthetic. Now I’m totally functional. Like,” Where do I put my keys? “

Although it is unknown what will happen to the art world over the next six months, Szy has a lot on its plate. that The installation was supposed to take place in Guggenheim, New York this month, But postponed to 2023; This fall, you’ll create a permanent 10 meter wide outdoor work for the Storm King Center for the Arts in upstate New York. Titled Fallen Sky, it will have echoes of the piece in Paris – Reflective steel circle, such as a picture of the earth torn into shrapnel or submerged in rising water. She is increasingly preoccupied with how her work relates to the environment – yet another complex, subtle and beautiful structure. “If you can model the world in a way that people see how fragile it is …”, leaving the idea on hold.

She and her technicians have worked from eight in the morning until midnight for the past four days, desperately trying to wrap up everything before Paris entered curfew. “Everything changes!” Says. Then the screen flickered again and I’m gone.

Night to Day Sarah Sze at the Cartier Foundation, ParisUntil March 7th.