The Container of Memories
What is immortal? It has been a subject of fascination to humanity since at least the beginning of known history. Immortal is not likely happen in a physical form. However, if one creates memories for other, she lives in others’ hearts. That is eternity. Rachel Whiteread is an artist who captures memory and creates containers of memories by casting the negative spaces of furnitures and spaces.
Rachel Whiteread is a British artist who is best known for her sculptures, which typically take the form of casts. She is also the first woman to win the Turner Prize.Rachel Whiteread acknowledges that she was influenced by the language, scale, and “freshness” of American Minimalism of the mid-twentieth century, particularly in the primacy it attached to simple materials, the lack of visible gesture, and the importance of space. As she recalls, “Minimalism was definitely and influence, as it gave me the confidence to place something in the middle of the floor and let it be what it was.” In her work, such as cast-resin water towers, and plaster casts of the space around buildings, bookshelves, and the negative space created under chairs and tables, she has devised a new idiom of form, and forced an innovative way of viewing the world.
Like Artschwager, Whiteread considers furniture and its forms and connotations as the starting point for much of her artwork of the last decade and a half. As she acknowledges, she uses “furniture as a metaphor for human beings.” In 1988, for her first gallery exhibition. Whiteread bought three pieces of used furniture – a dressing table, a wardrobe, and a bed – and filled them with wet plaster, removing the wood when it had set. What remained were the spaces in between and around the furniture. As the artist noted. “The first table I made…was to do with exchanging once’s personal spcae with that of that table, the physicality of how you sit when you have a table in front of you, how your legs behave.” Whiteread has since cast beds, baths, sinks, floors, whole rooms, and building exteriors in plaster, rubber, and wax. Her work makes the negative space, the container of memories, visible. By casting from specific objects, Whiteread is able to capture the marks of “the life in which they had a function.” In casting a used table that was similar to one in her grandmother’s kitchen, for example, the final cast included vestiges of “all sorts of bits and horrible stuff that you find beneath tables.”
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Recently, the artist became interested in going outside of the studio and creating work that referenced her sculpture, but was not as “precious.” She choose a daybed as the form from which to make her first functional edition. As she recalls,”I wanted to make something that had to be furniture.” For whiteread, the daybed represents a “resting spot, a pause,” both figuratively from her usual activity of art-making, and literally as a place for uses to stop and unwind. Combining ideas from several of her rubber and plaster sculptures, she conceived of “Daybed” as having a form that would “entice you to lay on it but it is not really that comfortable.” Whiteread intended “Daybed to mimic,” but not be and exact prototype o, her sculptures. With her assistants, Whitereadmade the first to-scale model in wood, taking the piece apart five times in order to ensure that the upholstered holes” at corner went straight through the form to the ground. As it was to be a functional object, the artist found she had to consider mundane matters, such as ensuring a child’s hand could not get stuck in the holes. As she notes, this was a different process from creating her artworks, as she “really enjoyed being forced to think of such practical things for a change.”
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Whiteread’s “daybed” is very similar to the one she remembers from her parents’ home. Adding another layer of meaning to the work, the fabric the artist chose for her prototype “daybed,” ad dusty gray in color, is a facsimile of the one in her memory. As the artist acknowledges of “Daybed” and her other, non-functional work. “There are al sorts of stories related to the pieces I made…It is inevitable that the history if objects becomes a part of the work” Admitting that she would like to design functional work again, Whiteread notes. “I think the thing that interests me most in furniture is getting it out into domestic environments-that the work has rather life altogether than my sculpture. I want to continue making things that are “outward” in the world and accessible to more people.”
The room in space. The emptiness between the walls has turned into a sculpture that fills the space by Rachel Whiteread. These are “remembered spaces.” The past only lives on when we remember it. Records help us not to forget. Rachel has called “recording” the central theme of her art.
Dennison, Lisa, and Craig Houser. Rachel Whiteread: Transient Spaces. Deutsche, Guggenheim Berlin: The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, 2001.
Neville, Tom, and Simon Cowell. Design – is not equal to – art: functional objects from donal Judd to Rachel Whiteread. New York, NY: Merrell Publishers Limited Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, Smithsonian Insitution, New York, 2004.
Forty, Adrian, and Susanne Kuchler. The Art of Forgetting. New Yotk: Oxford, 2001.