Again and again, Pierce can be seen to break open moments that strive towards hierarchies, towards the discrete or the contained. And although one cannot ‘get rid’ of such moments entirely, she at least undermines their self-proclaimed ‘certainty’, showing them to be specific but also temporary and potential relationships. – Rike Frank on Sarah Pierce
Sketches of Universal History Compiled from Several Authors by Sarah Pierce presents an interplay of voices, legacies, friendships and influences that make up an art practice. Conceived from a period of collaboration between the artist, curator and writer Rike Frank, with publishers Book Works and The Showroom, the book contains an interview between the artist and editor, and newly commissioned essays by Melissa Gronlund and Tom Holert, and is designed by Peter Maybury.
Following the American sociologist C. Wright Mills’ suggested practice of filing the ideas that compel you, then periodically unpacking, shuffling and spreading out the contents in search of new connections, each section of the book proposes routes through ten years of material. Facsimiles of conversations, letters, clippings and other source documents, on events that range from student protests at Kent State University in 1971to student debates on the State of British Art in 1978; the work of Rainer Maria Rilke and Auguste Rodin; Charles Harrison’s letters from When Attitudes Become Form, poems by Allen Ginsberg, and Lucy Lippard’s photo captions on the work of Eva Hesse, all revealing processes of research and a continual renegotiation of the terms for making art.
The material is gathered from Pierce’s ongoing and expansive exhibition projects that use archives, performance, discussions, and installation with sound and video elements. Presented as a monograph, the book draws on Pierce’s own biography as an artist, her history and ‘progress’, as well as historical and counter-cultural references, and the proximities of past artworks, that frame her work.
In 2003, Pierce began using an umbrella term, The Metropolitan Complex, to describe her art practice as articulated through multiple voices and collective inputs. Much of her work stakes a claim on the incidental or peripheral conversations and gestures that surround cultural work, as the sites of dissent and self-determination. Sketches of Universal History Compiled from Several Authors by Sarah Pierce provides a comprehensive insight into the complexities and slippages between individual drive and institutional context. An abridged chronology reflects the community of curators, students, archivists, reading groups and artists who have been direct interlocutors in Pierce’s practice.
Based in Dublin, Sarah Pierce’s recent projects and presentations include: Monogamy, CCS Bard, New York; Anguish and Enthusiasm: What Do You Do With Your Revolution Once You’ve Got It, Cornerhouse, Manchester; Towards a Newer Laocoön, National College of Art and Design and Irish Film Institute, Dublin; The Artist Talks, The Showroom, London; A Terrible Beauty is Born, 11th Biennale de Lyon; Push and Pull, Tate Modern, London / Mumok, Vienna and We are Grammar, Pratt Institute, Manhattan.
This publication has been supported by The Arts Council/ An Chomhairle Ealaíon.