Corban Walker represented Ireland at La Biennale di Venezia in 2011. Walker is known for his sculptures and installations relating to architectural scale and spatial perception and utilizing industrial materials like steel, aluminum, and glass. Standing only four feet tall, Walker explores minimalism from his unique point of view. The installations responded to rule-based, mathematical principles that derived from Walker’s own height and correlated to the experience of navigating a world that has been designed for others.The works installed at the Pietà interacted with the historic architecture of the Pavilion and were all, in some way,transparent. It intrigued Walker that the Pavilion was open at both ends, with each end offering a different destination, the canal or a garden. There was no front or back, and no beginning or end. In the past, Walker has used transparent materials like glass and Plexiglas to create sculptures; this time, the installation itself will be transparent, though the actual materials — metal and vinyl — are opaque.
Modular (2011) This work covered parts of the outside windows of the Pietà with blue vinyl according to a mathematical rule that took Walker’s height, 1290 millimeters, as the starting point for a mathematical formula that dictated the negative and positive space in the windows.
Transparent Wall (2011) This work used the interior windows of the Pietà to “blast out” the window panes and create a drawing over the panes made out of black vinyl squares arranged according to specific mathematical rules relating to the size and location of each square, projected in three dimensions and rendered in two dimensions. The result appeared chaotic or random, but was actually dictated by a disciplined principle.
Please Adjust (2011) This sculpture consisted of 160 interlocking stainless steel cubes, each made of beams with a width of four millimeters (as dictated by Walker’s height of four feet). The open frame cubes were interlocked to build a structure that could support itself. It could be altered or adjusted in each new installation, but the consequences of those adjustments could destroy the entire structure. “Please Adjust” represented a rare instance when Walker created work in direct response to an event — the global financial crisis. The work responded to a prevailing sense of helplessness, as well as the sensation that one person’s actions can have broad consequences that lead to adjustments of expectations in life and in art.
Explaining his practice at the launch of the exhibition, Walker stated “Over the past three years we have all experienced some catastrophic exposure to the actions of people whom we have no control over, and yet each of us is paying for their mistakes. The work is very much about architecture, and the practice of installation has very strong connections with architecture. Though the work is very minimal, the materials are very ‘hard’ — but at the same time the works appear quite delicate and the structures can feel fragile or precarious. Though the sculptures are minimalist, they are also quite theatrical. They require, they demand in fact, the participation of the viewer. This aspect is particularly significant in considering the relationship of the work or installation to the building, to the venue. In this way the work can be read without reference to me and in terms of its theatricality. The work exercises the viewers in considering their relationships with themselves and in how they participate and communicate with their own surroundings.”