An 'empty lot' is a space in a city where anything may happen. The new Tate Modern Turbine Hall exhibition 'Empty Lot', however, is the newest of Mexican sculptor Abraham Cruzvillegas' 'self-portraits'. A portrait not only of himself, but also of his generation: at this time, we are all empty lots waiting for change. Two-hundred-and-forty triangular containers of soil collected from parks and gardens across London have been elevated on two platforms extending from the centre of the room.
Earth from Buckingham Palace gardens lies anonymous among more modest soils. The containers are neither named nor ordered – Cruzvillegas wanted to see them all considered equal in their potential for development. Nothing has been intentionally planted, but the soil may already contain the seeds of potential growth. Horticultural lights surround the structure and it will be regularly watered. Mark Godfrey, senior curator of this project, and Cruzvillegas even anticipate 'seed-bombing' by visitors over the next few months. An apple core has already been dropped into one of the trays, and a small mushroom has grown from another.
The structure is held up by scaffolding, which Cruzvillegas assures us is a key part of the artwork, despite the distancing effect it has between the exhibition and its visitors. The two triangles extending from the centre platform not only form a compass to point equally east and west, but also a neatly tessellated pattern inspired by the architect Buckminster Fuller.
'Empty Lot' is Cruzvillegas' inaugural Turbine Hall installation – and the first under the Hyundai Commission banner, replacing the Tate's prior Unilever Commission – though much of his previous work has been acquired for the Tate's permanent collection. The space and time provided to the artist have been key to the work. Six months forms a countdown for something (or nothing) to emerge from these containers. The vast size of the construction only goes to highlight the scale of what visitors will actually be looking for: the smallest signs of growth and germination, the tiniest hints of change.