Visitors entering Floyer’s installation Things (2009) in the Irving Stenn, Jr. Family Gallery encounter a collection of identical plinths that would ordinarily be used to display art objects in the Museum, but these platforms are empty. In place of visible objects, each plinth is equipped with a speaker from which we hear the word “thing” sung—edited out of and isolated from a range of pop songs. The result is an amusing and thoughtful exploration of language, meaning, and the conventions of museum presentation and spectatorship.
The installation, like much of Berlin-based artist Ceal Floyer’s art, is characteristically austere, but its visual simplicity masks a more complicated message—often a wry cerebral twist the artist creates through language-based symbols and aesthetic devices. Floyer’s work is rooted in conceptual art, in which the idea, delivered through words or acts that undercut or supersede formal qualities, is the essence of the artwork.