Empty Lot by Abraham Cruzvillegas

News - 22/03/2016 - Article : Barbara Fecchio

For the past six months, the Turbine Hall of the Tate Gallery (London) has been hosting Empty Lot, a monumental in situ installation by Mexican artist Abraham Cruzvillegas. He was invited by the Hyundai Commission, which selects each year an artist to use this impressive space – 115 feet high and nearly 500 feet long – located at the entrance of the museum.

Right now, the space is occupied by two gigantic triangular platforms supported by scaffolding. On top of those platforms grows a geometrical garden, lit by lamps and watered once a week. It isn’t, however, an ordinary garden, for it holds no seed, no shrub, no flower. The triangular planters were filled with soil from parks and gardens across London including Hampstead Heath, Peckham, Haringey or Westminster. Abraham Cruzvillegas, along with his team and curator Mark Godfrey, collected different types of soil from the city, which were then poured directly into the planters, as is. “On April 3rd, we will see the completed work” explains Abraham Cruzvillegas. No one knows if anything will grow, and the artist doesn’t mind if nothing does, because the goal isn’t to make this “garden” grow, but rather to observe what happens and what does – or doesn’t – manage to sprout from nothing.

“I know nothing”, says Cruzvillegas. He has no idea what will take place inside those empty lots. This approach is an integral part of his work: the uncertainty, the imbalance, the ephemeral, not knowing exactly where things are heading, discovering and also marveling… These are all fundamental components of Abraham Cruzvillegas’s work. As he puts it himself: “This installation is made of soil, water, light, scaffolding, and hope.”

With Empty Lot, he wanted to summarize his artistic career, to create an installation which synthesizes his work and what it tells about himself as an artist: a sort of live self-portrait.

His art is intrinsically linked to his personal history and to his childhood in a family of migrants who left everything in order to settle down in Ajusco, a “rough” rural region south of Mexico City. This was a turning point in Abraham Cruzvillegas’s life. In this area, people help each other and live with what they find.

“I always do things as I can”: to Abraham, salvaged, discarded or abandoned objects all have potential. Everything can be reused, we just need to learn how to look. That’s how a bathroom door was repurposed as a support for one of the lamps of Empty Lot. Similarly, the installation’s entire lighting system was made out of salvaged items. 

For the past six months, nature took over. It has been following its course. Empty Lot is an installation in constant evolution. Even if it’s not visible to the naked eye, it is constant. Day after day, it takes on different forms, it shifts and renews itself. The artist was able to use his energy, as a human being and as an artist, this vital energy, and to transform it into positive energy. Now the observer needs, in turn, to be able to look.

On April 3rd, visit the Tate Modern to discover the completed work.

  • Turbine Hall is the heart of the former Bankside Power Station.

Tate Modern
London SE1 9TG
United Kingdom

10.00–18.00, Sunday – Thursday
10.00–22.00, Friday – Saturday
Free entry