As a sculptor, performer, and writer, Gordon Hall examines the personal, relational, and political effects of the ways we relate to objects and to each other. Using both abstract forms and re-constructed copies of found objects, the artist asks how we might use such things and how they solicit bodily engagements from us. Ultimately, Hall’s interests lie in the social and political dynamics of these exchanges. The intentional, specific, and enigmatic objects Hall creates are both provocations to performance and allegories for an ethics of relationality. The sculptural objects and the performances that occur with and adjacent to them explore possibilities for an engagement with space, time, and objecthood that seek to model alternative futures.
The Number of Inches Between Them, the project on view at the List Center, continues a body of work in which Hall creates replicas of found, one-of-a-kind pieces of furniture. The replicas refer to objects Hall has encountered by chance and feels a magnetic attraction to, furniture that the artist wants to investigate physically through remaking. The Number of Inches Between Them doubles a geometric stone bench happened upon in a friend’s backyard in 2016. The replication is done twice: first as eight cast concrete interlocking panels that are shown assembled as a twin of the bench, and second as the same set of eight concrete panels presented disassembled and leaning against the walls of the gallery. All aspects of the object—its design, tactile quality, material, history, and the narrative of its maker—become implicated in the ways Hall reanimates it in a second life as sculpture. Here, the artist recovers the story of the bench’s creator Dennis Croteau, a largely unknown artist who designed and fabricated the original bench shortly before passing away from complications relating to AIDS in 1989. A movement piece using the bench is performed by Hall and a group of Boston-based performers midway through the exhibition. The two sculptures in the exhibition are accompanied by a takeaway poster featuring an image of the original bench where it sits today, with an undeliverable letter from Hall to Croteau printed on its reverse.
The title of the work originates from a quote by Scott Burton, an artist who rose to prominence in the 1980s, recognized primarily for complicating the distinctions between sculpture and furniture. His granite and bronze furniture pieces are now included in major public art collections around the world. Here at MIT, Burton designed the settee, bench, and balustrade just outside of the Bakalar Gallery in the atrium of the List Center’s Wiesner Building. Burton, an advocate for making art personal and social, once said of the experience he desired for the seated audiences of his Behavior Tableaux works, “…what I want people to become aware of is the emotional nature of the number of inches between them.” Like Croteau, Burton also passed away from AIDS-related complications in 1989. In creating a space of repose, The Number of Inches Between Them supports us in being present with those who no longer are. Hall produces a bench in this lineage, while considering vulnerability and care, the broader history and politics of support, and the structures that dictate the choreography of our bodies as we engage with the built world.