Martin Boyce was born in Glasgow in 1967. He studied Environmental Art at The Glasgow School of Art, before completing an MFA. He currently lives and works in Glasgow.
Boyce has exhibited extensively in Britain and internationally, selected solo exhibitions and commissions include: List Visual Arts Center at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, 2011; SculptureCenter, New York, 2008; Westfalischer Kunstverein Munster, 2008; Ikon Gallery Birmingham, 2008; and Tramway, Glasgow, 2002. In 2009, Martin Boyce represented Scotland at the 53rd Venice Biennale and in 2011 he won the Turner Prize.
Martin Boyce is well known for his sculptural installations that recall and reference conventional public spaces. Individual works often recall public furniture; benches, bins, signage and lighting. Drawing on the iconography and production of modernist design, these objects take on an alternative life by being displaced from their original context and purpose.
At first glance Mobile (Being with you is like the new past) appears to consist of formless, dark shapes hanging from a mobile, floating with a mixture of grace and awkwardness. The structure of the work suggests a more ominous rendering of the mobiles of Alexander Calder, who invented the modern mobile in 1931. Suspended in Boyce’s sculpture, however, are not the abstract shapes used by Calder, but parts of chairs designed by the Danish architect and designer Arne Jacobsen. The parts come from the 3107 Chair, designed in 1955, also known as the ‘series 7’ chair, perhaps the design for which Jacobsen is best known.
Boyce is fascinated with icons of Modernist design and architecture, and with the ideologies that might still be contained within the objects. The dreams for Modernist design of this period were based in utopian solutions for a post-war economy: usable objects that might change the way the average family lived. Ultimately, however, these ‘classic’ pieces of design became luxury commodities for the rich and privileged. In Mobile (Being with you is like the new past), the principles of democratic design and ‘form follows function’ are undermined, as the chairs’ seats and backs dangle out of reach, impossible to use.
Boyce’s reframing of these design ‘icons’ appears to undermine the idea that design could help create greater equality in society. However, in his titling of the work ‘Being with you is like the new past’ Boyce hints at some residual potential in the objects. They hover, above the ground, in a kind of limbo, a waiting area for other imagined futures.