Shift – Richard Serra

I have always loved ‘Shift’ by Richard Serra.

In Writings/Interviews By Richard Serra, University of Chicago Press


In the summer of 1970, Joan Jonas and I spent five days walking the site – a farming field consisting of of two hills separated by a dog leg valley. We discovered that two people walking the distance of the field opposite one another, attempting to keep one another in sight despite the curvature of the land would mutually determine a topological definition of the space. The boundary of the work became the maximum distance two people could occupy and still keep one another in view.

First published in Arts Magazine, April 1973

The work takes on a new resonance for me in the light of the issues of keeping children in sight explored in the last blog entry ‘Damned if you Do & Damned if you Don’t’.

One of the other aspects of the work I like is that we can’t experience the work by looking at a photo – we would have to be there. There is no fixed centre to the work and no fixed horizons – rather shifting centres and horizons as you move through it in relation to another person.

Cleve Mortelliti tells the story of coming across ‘Shift’ as a ten year old boy  in the Township of King, Ontario and the fascinating relationship he developed  with the work.


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