Sculptor Michael Enn Sirvet

He Knows the Drill

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

By Murrye Bernard
Photos by Anything Photographic

Drilling thousands of holes into a solid structure would give any self-respecting structural engineer a panic attack. Good thing Michael Enn Sirvet no longer practices structural engineering. Sirvet gave up his blossoming career in 2008, opting instead to become a full-time sculptor. He’s known for beautiful pieces done in metal, wood, and plastic that feature thousands of holes of various sizes. Here, he talks about his newfound love for circular voids.

DB: You’ve described your work as ‘Restructuralist Sculpture.’ What does this mean, exactly? Tell us about your process.
Michael Enn Sirvet: I have no sketchbooks—I like to cowboy it. A lot of my work deals with industrial themes and decay. I’m not a morbid guy and I try not to use the word ‘decay’ because it’s not a sexy word. But so many things are fragile, they eventually fade and crumble, and it all goes back to earth. I’ve created many works by hand that involve drilling thousands of holes, emulating the process of erosion. It’s a Zen thing, but it’s also maddening. 

DB: Your installation Farragut Spheres for the Farragut West Metro station in Washington, D.C., is one such piece. How did you land such an amazing commission so early in your career as an artist?
MES: I was contacted based on my Millennia sculpture, a hemispherical shell made of aluminum and punctured by hand-drilled holes. It won an Award for Excellence in Metal Craft from the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Renwick Gallery. Farragut Spheres was inspired by that piece and consists of 20 spherical, light-filled dishes mounted on the wall of the station’s ground level.

DB: What was it like, working against all the D.C. bureaucracy to install the spheres?

MES: I’ll be really honest—it was the most frustrating process I’ve ever gone through in my life, involving many preliminary approvals from local, state, and federal governments. If you can do a project in the D.C. Metro, you can probably do just about any other public art project.

DB: Farragut Spheres is visible to thousands of commuters each day. Do you think it impacts people passing by?

MES: When you’re coming out of an elevator or turning a corner on the street and are confronted by art, I think it soaks in in an entirely different way. I always hope that, because Farragut Spheres is located in the entrance closest to the White House, maybe it will subconsciously get into the minds of the people who make important decisions. That’s probably wishful thinking, though.


A Table for His Airness
Sirvet also designed a dining table for a fellow very famous Michael—as in Jordan. With the help of Jim Turner at Products Support, Sirvet drilled 32,292 holes into an aluminum sheet—one for each point Jordan scored throughout his career—carefully placing each hole so that none overlap. Jordan was so pleased with his new table that he bought three other pieces from Sirvet, including one that is on display in his downtown Chicago steakhouse.

Lighting the Spheres
Alexander Cooper Lighting Design helped Sirvet illuminate his Farragut Spheres. “We began by talking about ways light can support the basic visual characteristics of the work, the spherical motif, the pattern of holes, and the basic sense of spherical depth," says Alex Cooper of their design process. The two meticulously thought out each detail for each sphere, and it definitely shows. Installed, the soft halo of light coming from each sphere brings a little cosmic glow to the grungy D.C. Metro.

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