Secretion (Urge) 2000/Absonderung (Drang)

Feb 23, 12 Secretion (Urge) 2000/Absonderung (Drang)


Table of contents

1. The sculpture

2. Questions to Mr Cragg





The sculpture


First of all let’s see where we go.


This is Secretion.

Cragg Tony – Secretion (Urge) (Eisjen Schaaf) / CC BY-SA 3.0


It is a sculpture. This means that we can walk around the object. Then let’s go and have a good look at it from all its sides.


Mit freundlicher Erlaubnis von Anton Volgger (

wit kind permission of Anton Volgger (

with the kind permission of Gina (


with the kind permission of Gina (


The first thing that I noticed about the sculpture is its name – Secretion (Urge) … Secretion? Urge? Should that mean something like excrement? I am not sure whether I like this name. But you don’t have to agree with me just because I don’t like it.

Going back to the sculpture we can use our own imagination to understand it since there is no further information.

I looked at this work of art for a long time and very minutely. Here it is what I have seen:

I have seen dice.
I have seen a question mark, a ramp, a pyramid.
I have seen a being with two feet and a head, maybe a duck? Or maybe an alien?
I come closer to the place that looks like a ramp in my imagination and I hear noises coming from far away. The more I concentrate, the more I hear clearly the rattling and shouting, the hustle and bustle of the workers who build the ramp. I want to see the workers. I don’t see them. I can’t. They are not there. If I only could be smaller! If I could get smaller and climb on the dice! I could walk on them and find myself in a fantasy world. Around me I could see huge blocks of flats with bright windows instead of the pips on the dice. The cars would dash around horizontally, vertically, in all directions, swirling my clothes and my hair. Suddenly I feel whirled up, up in the air and I look downwards to a large city by night. Black ground, dancing lights.
Am I in the sky? Do I stand on the work of art? I look upwards. No, there it is again. Above me, big, huge. A moment ago it was only a flat city map, now it is a mushroom cloud … or more likely a tornado? The dies start already to melt again, as they did from the very beginning. They never allow the eyes to rest, they carry them constantly, gently along the curves and the forms of the object and wipe the images of the last impressions out of the brain, to make it free for the next impressions.
Shall I count the dice? Is there a pattern, a meaning in the way the pips on the dice are arranged? Is there somewhere a hidden Morse code? I dive into the sea of white dots, drift along and listen to the quiet click of the Morse telegraph.
Another visitor of the museum, who just goes around the object, startles me out of my contemplation. I take a step back, inhale deeply, stretch my back. As the other visitor goes away I draw closer to the alien’s head that I discovered a little while ago. I place myself directly under it and stare at it. Do you want to swallow me? For the time being nothing happens. My eyes glide over the body of the alien. As soon as my mind decided that I am seeing an alien now, the surface appears to be made of scales instead of dice. I could swear that a moment ago all the dice lay tight-fitting to such an extent that the surface looked very smooth. While now there are gaps visible. The dice splay out, the surface looks rough, scaly.
I look up again to my alien. It bends slowly its round head over me. It won’t really try to nibble at me to see how I taste, will it? Maybe I should take a step back just to be on the safe side. I step aside and look at my mild monster that turns into a smiling faceAnthony Cragg writes that every human being possesses the skill to see human profiles in all kind of things. Thus he introduces such profiles in his works in order to attract the viewer to look at the sculptures more closely. Sometimes if you look at a cloud you discover a human profile there and with the works of Mr Cragg it is vice versa. He makes you first see a face in his sculptures, so that you get familiar with the object in front of you. The sculpture is not a strange object any more and now you can enjoy it., while it watches me. I see a chin, a nose, a smiling mouth. It watches me friendly, but it doesn’t come closer. I wonder what is it really? Is it maybe a sea creature with such an extremely soft body that you shouldn’t tread on? I would like very much to squeeze it to find out its body consistency. But I dare not. The museum attendant would pound up to me and I would get a scolding.
Instead I crouch for a moment and examine the feet closer. The feet which turn into a cave. Into a gorge. A canyon. Or rather mountains, where you can ski? Obviously mountains, on which you can ski. But is it snow or sand? The feet, which turned into mountains on which you can ski, don’t want to reveal whether they are made of snow or sand. I look up again, follow with my eyes the mountain slopes, run over the shoulder of the being and I know that I should end up by my ramp which turns into a pyramid, but I have a different feeling now. It feels like an infinite vastness is concealed behind it. I only need to stand up and I shall see it.

That’s it! That is all that I experienced looking at this sculpture. It is nice, isn’t it? Certainly each person looks at the sculpture in a different way. If we took hundred visitors, we would get hundred different stories.
To look properly at a work of art doesn’t mean only to let your imagination run freely. It is also important to know facts. It is a pity that generally these facts are not readily shared with the visitors by the artists, as well as by the museums, by the galleries and so on. The most frequent explanation is that one considers that an amateur is not interested to know the facts. That is why most of the time, one can read the name of the artist and the title of the work of art on the small plaque placed besides the work of art (if it happens to have a title and it is not written “Without title”). Sometimes it is also written which material the work of art is made of. And that is all. I think that this is a real pity, because in the facts there is valuable information, which may help everybody to better understand the work of art. I cannot really emphasize enough how often knowing the facts helped me to look at a work of art from a different angle, to understand it better.

Well then, because we are all interested in knowing the facts, let us write a list of questions. These questions are directed to the Kunsthaus in Zurich, where we can find the sculpture “Secretion (Urge) 2000”. Or even better let us ask the questions directly Anthony Cragg the artist who made the sculpture.

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Questions to Mr Cragg


Dear Mr Cragg,

  1. Which material is the sculpture made of?
    The material is important, because according to the answer we can tell how heavy it is. Is it heavy? Is it light? Does it stay indoors, because outdoors even the lightest breath of wind would blow it down? Does it stay on concrete, because it is too heavy for the soft earth in which it would sink?
    Further on the choice of the material is important, because it defines the surface of the object. Why were dice used? Why there are black dice with white pips and not white dice with black pips? Obviously it was a deliberate choice, because two years before the creation of this sculpture, Mr Cragg created another sculpture very similar to this one. It has the title “Secretion 1998”. That sculpture is also very big and it consists of dice, only that those dice are white with black pips. Why does “our” sculpture consist of black dice with white pips? Is it possible that Mr Cragg ordered for the first sculpture a large sack of dice, used the white ones, so that for further projects only the black ones remained?
    Or is it possible that he deliberately used white dice for the first sculpture and black ones for the second, because … Yes, because what? Because he wanted to create this special surface, certainly. Because he wanted the object to appear shimmering gray when looked at from a distance. Because he wanted its black shiny body to be strewn with white dots when looked at from close up. Because he wanted the surface to give the impression of a certain scaliness. But why exactly?
    If he hadn’t done that, I couldn’t have seen all the nightly images of the city and the Morse code. Another surface would have sent me to another journey.
  2. Which are the measures of the sculpture?
    It is very important for you to know what are the length and the breadth of the sculpture, especially because you can see it only as a photo for the time being. Is the length of the sculpture two meters? Maybe twenty centimetres? Can you put your arms around it? Can you look at it from above if you stay close by?
  3. How was it produced? Who built it (the artist by himself, commissioned work, …)? How many people were involved and what did they make?
    Large sculptures are usually commissioned. That means that the artist gives a special firm drawings and small models of the sculpture, so that they know what to do. Therefore, the manufacture of the sculpture is not the work of the artist himself. Taking into consideration that the surface of Secretion (Urge) 2000 is made of dice, and not of stone, bronze or some similar material, I think that it is not likely to be a commissioned work.
  4. How long did it take to create the sculpture, starting with the first idea till its completion?
    I am sure you agree with me that it is a difference whether a work of art comes into being through a long process, which takes years, or the artist is inspired by the Muses and the work of art is created in a week.
  5. How many dice are in the sculpture?
    If you want you can count them, but I couldn’t.
  6. Why is the surface made of dice? Why not of something else (wood, fabric, M&Ms, …)?
    This question was already included in my train of thoughts in question no.1.
  7. Where did you get the dice? (Did you buy them? Did you get them as a present? Did you collect them?)
  8. Is the number of the pips which we can see on the surface of each die a pure chance or on purpose?
  9. Do Secretion (Urge) 2000 and Secretions 1998 belong together? What is their connection?
  10. How did you get the idea of this sculpture?
  11. What is it, what should it be, what should it arouse in the visitor?
    There are artists who don’t like this question. They consider that everything that they wanted to say is already said through the work of art. The way the recipient understands it is up to him.
  12. Why is the sculpture so big? Why not bigger (for instance as big as a house)? Why not smaller (so that we may take it in our hands)?
  13. Why is it a sculpture and not a painting or something else? Could another art medium express the basic idea of this sculpture in the same way, let’s say photography, painting, and so on?
  14. Why the title Secretion (Urge)?
    The title evokes for me something in connection with faeces and excretion. Is this the intention of the artist? If yes, why?
  15. Is it allowed to touch the sculpture? Are you supposed to touch it or should you simply go around it and look at it?
  16. Would it be good to have a ladder besides the sculpture so that you could see it from above?
  17. Do you think that a photographic depiction of your sculpture does it justice?
  18. Where was the sculpture before it came in the Kunsthaus in Zurich?

So many questions. I tried already to find out the answers to these questions both from the Kunsthaus and from Anthony Cragg. They haven’t answered, yet. As soon as I get the answers I will share them with you.
If you have further questions don’t hesitate to ask. You could ask them either here or direct them to the Kunsthaus, or directly to the artist. I certainly hope that you will have the opportunity to see Secretion (Urge) 2000 / Absonderung (Drang) in the Kunsthaus and I am looking forward to discover another work of art together with you soon.

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