The artist explores modern life through the transformation of materials and readymades.
'I’ve enjoying putting this show together at Ikon, although it’s complicated', says Roger Hiorns, the Birmingham-born artist known for his sculptures and installations that hinge on a sense of surreal unease, not least Seizure, the council flat that he crystallised in copper sulphate.
'It started as a way of looking back, but in fact most of the works are from the last couple of years. It’s much more interesting for me to think about the future, and it’s been a very productive time in the studio, so the show became a continuation of that.
'There’s a lot going on and there are a lot of narratives. It’s going to be irksome for some, though I think that’s fine. A lot of this work has travelled around Europe and American, but not a lot has been seen in the UK. It’s always been received with much enthusiasm, but to bring it back to my hometown brings a real level of weirdness!
'Being back here has been great. It’s demystified the city for me for some degree. When you leave somewhere you suddenly start mythologising your own past, but that had to go pretty quickly. Birmingham is now a going concern for me as opposed to a part of my history, you work with the city again towards a useful future.
'Really the whole exhibition features fragments of my thinking, but there’s an overall feeling of considering the "human" and the stresses and strains we face today. Some parts relate to my CJD piece that I showed at the Hayward Gallery last year [a huge research project that investigated the ‘mad cow disease’ epidemic] including the brain matter paintings [produced using cerebral cow tissue] and there are newer works based simply on the idea of the human body.
'One work features a group of latex, silicone and fibreglass figures that were previously film props. They fall in a mechanical action from a fixing on the wall, before being put back again. One body has brain matter inside, while one of the others is more complex, it’s stuffed with pages from a book by Heidigger [the influential German philosopher].
'I find the simple act of falling is an interesting subject. These pieces link indirectly, in a way presupposing the future of the human body, they are all key, along with the aeroplane.'
In what should be considered his most ambitious project to date, Hiorns is burying a Boeing 737 underground at a nearby, disused canal island and inviting visitors to descend inside. 'There’s quite a lot of technical issues, as you can imagine, when you’re putting a plane under the ground. We are pretty much there, and scheduled for late 2017.
'To bury a plane within the centre of the city becomes a very symbolic act. For me there’s something interesting about the place in particular, Ladywell. It’s famous as an area for people who have recently arrived – a high migration zone – in the Midlands.
There are a number of conversations and ideas about different planes, different territories. To terminate the plane and find a new use for it in such a dominant way allows us to think about the next stage of our global process.
'I think there’s a frustration with the way the world has crystallised into an immovable force; we’re pushing back. So this is an action of resistance as well as becoming attuned to the desire for a new future, an alternative.'