Project dates: June 2012 – ongoing
My process involves encountering an idea and visually responding to it. The responses do not illustrate the idea, but result from my pondering and grappling with it. One of my research sources for the thesis is Chromophobia (2000) by David Batchelor. Batchelor begins the book by describing his encounter with a particular house:
The uninterruptable, endless emptiness of this house was impressive, elegant and glamorous in a spare and reductive kind of way, but it was also assertive, emphatic and ostentatious. This was assertive silence, emphatic blankness, the kind of ostentatious emptiness that only the very wealthy can afford. It was strategic emptiness, but was also accusatory. […]
Inside this house was a whole world, a very particular kind of world, a very clean, clear and orderly universe […]. There is a kind of white that is more than white, and this was that kind of white. There is a kind of white that repels everything that is inferior to it, and that is almost everything. This was that kind of white. There is a kind of white that is not created by bleach, but that itself is bleach. This was that kind of white. (9-10)
Batchelor’s ideas above, implicate those of Austrian architect Adolf Loos (1870-1933) who famously wrote, “the evolution of culture is synonymous with the removal of ornamentation from objects of everyday use” (168). For Loos the highest form of culture (and defining high culture defines what low forms of culture are, which is also problematic) involved stripping away decoration and ornamentation to expose as pure a form as possible.
This striving for pure forms in architecture, household objects and art during the twentieth century is predated by discussions on what constitutes a pure race by the scientific community in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In his discussion of the ideology of Whiteness in White (1997) Richard Dyer adds to the dialogue:
In the quest for purity, whites win either way: either they are a distinct, pure race, superior to all others, or else thay are the purest expression of the human race itself. What is interesting in either vision is the emphasis on purity, and of the special purity of whiteness, for […] this is a theme central to what is implied and mobilised by this group being called ‘white’. (22)
I believe that this quest for purity continues. For example, actual walls are erected along borders (particularly where predominantly “non-White” countries are on the other side), women’s rights to their own bodies are being eroded in some places (to ensure White births?), and neo-nazi groups openly march in Europe (a reaction to immigration?).
Looking at the resulting forms of this “removal of ornamentation” leads me to “minimal” furnishings, objects and architecture. The following drawings are produced by tracing an image with a stylus onto a sheet of white paper through a sheet of carbon. So the resulting image is made with a line of carbon (rather than a graphite pencil mark). Thinking also about purity (and how the ultimate purity ends in a kind of lack or nothingness) I recall how empty contours stand in as symbols in legends, where each symbol is numbered and the corresponding number can be found elsewhere with a textual explanation of the object the symbol represents. In my versions there is no textual reference. The numbers appear to mean something, but lead to nothing.
July Week 1 & 2
Drawings were made on craft paper, sketch paper, and vellum. In various sizes with the objects also appearing in various sizes on the paper.
July Week 3 & Onward
Drawings were made in the same way, but relatively small in relation to the size of the paper, and each image is the same size. I am also interested in trying this process where each object is scaled to the exact same size on identical sheets of paper.
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Batchelor, David. Chromophobia. London: Reaktion, 2000. Print.
Dyer, Richard. White. London: Routledge, 1997. Print.
Loos, Adolf. Ornament and Crime: Selected Essays. Ed. Adolf Opel. Riverside, CA: Ariadne, 1998. Print.