Thursday, May 2, 2013

Rachel Whiteread, Absence

Rachel Whiteread’s casts are kind of fantastic in my eyes. The interpretation of them obviously varies based upon who is looking at them, but i see them as a very interesting take on the passing of time and how historical space and artifacts are looked upon in the modern era. For example, in class we looked at her work House (1993), which is a concrete cast of a victorian house. It was placed in a spot where an old Victorian house used to exist, but was torn down. The stark, concrete interpretation of what once was not only emphasizes the absence of the old house, but also provokes an analyzation of what it means to leave old artifacts behind. In Philosophy, we talk a lot about negative space, and the idea of nothingness. By creating this artificial house, Whitehead is in some respects eliminating the nothingness that was left behind by the old house, as well as emphasizing the absence of time passed. The philosophers such as Hegel, Schelling, Sartre, and Heidegger who speak a lot about what nothingness and absence are, would have quite a time discussing what Whiteread does.

After reading about Whiteread’s works, I actually discussed her casts with one of my professors for the class I am taking on Existentialism. We discussed how there is an interesting play between existence (as the old Victorian house was), nothingness (when the house ceased to exist), and creation (the cast). The cast only carries significance because of it’s past. In addition to the philosophy aspect which is concerned with nothingness mainly, Whiteread’s casts also give an interesting nod to history. What we create today is only really holds its value (and our interest) because of something that it reflects,repeats, or negates from the past.

Because of these abundant connections, Whiteread’s sculptures would be great candidates for the interactive learning space. In representations of them, students could also have a chance in some way to draw connections to other classes that they may have studied similar subjects or drawn connections to. By each student who interacts making a connection, there develops an entire web of the art infiltrating culture and vis-versa.

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