Sunday, September 28, 2008

Rachel Whiteread (Kate's Pick)

Rachel Whiteread is a British artist who is best known for her work with plaster casts; for example, her piece Ghost (1990) is a plaster cast of the inside of a room.  Such works put emphasis on the negative space of living rather than the positive.  Her works in this vein that have influenced my current endeavors in book arts are her library pieces.  The one shown here is Untitled (Paperbacks), 1997, which shows the negative space of library shelves where the viewer can see the imprint of the books that are absent.  Another important piece is Whiteread's Judenplatz Memorial (Nameless Library) in Vienna, which was constructed in 2000.  Serving as a Holocaust memorial, this piece (like her others) presents a plaster cast of bookshelves such that the books are turned inward, suggesting that the spines (and hence names) are inaccessible.  The piece reflects death and absence associated with the Holocaust, and the emphasis on books calls to mind the intellectual losses perpetuated by Nazi book burning.  

Personally, I find a starkness and colorlessness in Whiteread's work  that lends itself to being highly symbolic and that is indicative of some issues surrounding the "book as artifact" (or a lost artifact) concept with which I am also concerned.  (However, her work stems more from ideas of absence and destruction than mine is intended to.) I would also associate a kind of "quietness" with these casts similar to that which Greg commented on in reference to Jacob El Hanani.

For reference:
Here is a transcript of a BBC interview with Whiteread where she discusses Ghost and her interest in architectural spaces.
Also, she has an exhibit at the MFA displaying her most recent work with English dollhouses. It is opening on October 15th if anyone is interested. (And let me know if you are, as I might be going!)

1 comment:

Chris said...

I thought it was interesting how the piece reflected death and absence from the Holocaust. I know you said that you were not as interested in the idea of absence as Whiteread is but more in the physicality of the book itself as an artform. What reflection/reflection do you anticipate from the viewer for your project? Are you trying to create an appreciation for the mere idea of books?