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Images in Debris

Sarah Sze

February 6–October 4, 2020

Floor 2

Sarah Sze’s Images in Debris is the first instalment of The City Is a Collection, a MOCA exhibition series that presents privately owned contemporary artworks from throughout the Toronto community.

Constellatory, monumental, intimate and immersive, Images in Debris is one in a series of sculptures by Sarah Sze where light, movement, images and architecture coalesce into a single, precarious equilibrium.

Simultaneously a sculptural installation and functional projection tool, Images in Debris lends equal weight to images and objects, exploring the edges between the two and bringing both into dialogue with the surrounding architecture. At its centre is an L-shaped desk, inspired by the artist’s own studio desk, which, acting like a projector at the centre of a planetarium, casts images onto an intricate structure extending from the desktop and across the gallery walls.

Scanning the architecture at different speeds, the projections alter our sense of gravity, scale and time. A site of both networked and fractured relationships, Images in Debris analyzes the ways in which we experience the image-saturated contemporary world. Poised at the intersection of the material and the virtual, it offers windows onto moments by turns public and private.

The imagery itself — much of it shot on the artist’s iPhone — often points to its own materiality or to changes in material state. A forest burns. Water spills or splashes — a reference to Harold Edgerton’s famous 1936 photograph Milk-Drop Coronet Splash and to the earlier experiments of Muybridge and Marey. Edits, meanwhile, draw attention to processes of decay or transformation, images succumbing to pixilation or becoming ghostly like digital “snow.” In tandem, altered states of consciousness are suggested by imagery that draws on such motifs as that of a child asleep. Within the slow loop of the imagery — in which repetitions take days rather than hours — beginnings and endings are willfully suspended. Here, Sze applies to sculpture the filmic idea of the edit, where meaning occurs in the splice, and the viewer, moving through the space, supplies their own narrative arc.


Sarah Sze represented the United States at the Venice Biennale in 2013 and was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship in 2003. The artist has exhibited in museums worldwide, and her works are held in the permanent collections of prominent institutions, including The Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim Museum, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; The Fondation Cartier, Paris; The Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and the Museum of Modern Art, Los Angeles. Sze’s work has been featured in The Whitney Biennial (2000), the Carnegie International (1999) and several international biennials, including Berlin (1998), Guangzhou (2015), Liverpool (2008), Lyon (2009), São Paulo (2002) and Venice (1999, 2013 and 2015). Sze has also created public works for the High Line and Second Avenue Subway Station in New York; the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. Centrifuge, a major commission by Haus der Kunst, Munich, occupied the museum’s Middle Hall until 12 August 2018. Sze was born in Boston, Massachusetts, and lives and works in New York.

Sarah Sze’s Images in Debris, 2018, is loaned by Audrey and David Mirvish.

Additional thanks to Victoria Miro Gallery, London, and Sarah Sze Studio, New York.


This exhibition contains bright, flashing lights and may cause discomfort for those with photosensitivity.

Public Programmes

Artists on Artists: Kristina Guison on Sarah Sze’s “Images in Debris” | February 21

7 pm

Led by artist Kristina Guison, this tour invites viewers to engage with Sarah Sze’s installation Images in Debris through a series of perceptual and meditative exercises. Interactive prompts will frame a discussion connecting Sze’s work to cognitive psychological theories of memory and perception.

MOCA’s Artists on Artists series is a programme where local artists are invited to discuss MOCA’s current exhibitions, or a single artwork, in any format or direction of their choosing.

Kristina Guison is a sculpture, installation and performance artist investigating ontological questions in science and culture. She completed her BFA in Sculpture/Installation at OCAD University in 2016 and is currently studying Psychology and Evolutionary Anthropology at the University of Toronto. Guison has exhibited her work and participated in artist residencies in Canada, the Philippines and Spain.

Sarah Sze, Images in Debris, 2018. MOCA Toronto. Courtesy the artist, Victoria Miro Gallery, London and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery (New York and Los Angeles). Photo by Toni Hafkenscheid.