The Royal British Society of Sculptors is delighted to announce the unveiling of the Boyle Family’s World Series Gotland Site at their galleries on Old Brompton Road. The World Series, started in 1968, and shown at the artists’ solo exhibition in the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 1978, are seminal works which sit at the intersection of conceptual art, land art and performance. The Boyle Family interrogate reality, scale and material with direct and steadfast originality.
The aim of the World Series is direct and ostensibly simple: to locate, examine and present 1,000 randomly selected sites from the Earth’s surface. Viewing themselves as contemporary archaeologists, the artists set out to faithfully document these sites by excluding stylistic, compositional or theoretical concerns thereby removing their subjectivity. They make Earth Studies by combining materials such as soil, rock and tarmac with resin and fibreglass to make three dimensional wall mounted recreations of the site. More detailed evidence of the site such as animal and plant life, human activity and meteorological factors are often incorporated into the work. The artists will neither exclude elements to potentially form part of the work or restrict themselves by the medium in which they are shown, which may include film and photography.
The World Series started when the artists invited friends and members of the public to fire darts while blindfolded at the largest map of the world they could find, first in August 1968 at their Shepherd’s Bush flat and then during an exhibition which opened at the new Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) premises in 1969. At the time, Mark Boyle declared, ‘it is a lifetime project. It could take 25 years’. The reality is that it has taken over 40 years during which time World Series sites have been completed in The Hague, followed by others in Nyord in Denmark, the frozen wastes of the Vesteralen islands, Jottenheimen mountains and forests in Norway as well as Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Israel, Scotland, Spain and now Sweden.
Once a site is selected, the artists zoom in on the area using further random selection techniques such as throwing a frame over larger and larger scale maps of the area to pinpoint a site. Once they arrive at the site, the artists continue to narrow down the area to be studied by the same random method. The Gotland site is in the sea, just off the coast near Lickershamn, a site which poses logistical challenges. For the installation, the Boyle Family have created a film work of the surface of the sea at the site, a large Elemental Study of the main rock type of the area which is limestone and electronmicrophotographs of plant and animal life found at the site, physical response studies of the artists as well as film of life at the harbour of Lickershamn.
The viewer experiences the World Series simultaneously from the perspective of the whole world and from the miniscule detail of electron imaging. All the parts of the installation, however large or small, are the reality of the site. The exhibition questions our fragmentary understanding of reality, our shifting conception of scale and the absence of subjectivity in the artwork.