Naturally, I didn’t find the horse like this. I shot it in Mexico in 2002, having been invited to make a work in response to the late architect Luis Barragán’s house in Mexico City. Before I went along to see the house, I took a virtual tour – and was struck by a wooden sculpture of a horse, sitting on a plinth on the roof terrace.
When I finally got there, the horse was missing. I asked the guide where it was and he looked surprised. Apparently, after Barragán died, the contents of the house were removed so repairs could be made. When everything was brought back, the horse was missing. So the thing I most remembered was the thing that was no longer there.
A little later, I was in Guadalajara working on a project for a small, artist-run gallery in a skyscraper. When I went up on the roof, I immediately remembered Barragán’s horse. He wasn’t just from Guadalajara, he’d also been friends with the architect who built this skyscraper. But these details weren’t so important: the main thing was my feeling of absence, my belief it represented more than presence. I decided to get a horse up there.
The structure it rests on was tailor-made. It had to support the horse carefully, not so tight that it hurt, but tight enough so it wouldn’t fall off. There was nothing really dramatic about the shoot. The horse’s owner was there, which kept things calm. It took four people to lift the horse, crossing hands under its belly, while somebody else kept the platform steady. It took just 20 seconds. I guess the horse was taken by surprise: by the time it realised what was going on, it was already back on the ground. We repeated the procedure, lifting it up and down several times until I got a picture I was happy with.
I like the tension: the horse looks like it has been rejected, while at the same time it has been handled with care. It is both landing and taking off, which lends the shot an absurd equilibrium. And it seems lighter than it should be, like there’s no gravity. When something is out of its normal context – this horse should be running about freely, not being pulled upwards – we question not just what we see, but our whole sense of place. What is it that makes us feel grounded? And why do we take it as a given?
The whole process, from idea to shoot, took less than 48 hours. This could only have happened in Mexico.