WIP- White: The Gallery Space, and the Classism and Racism of the Art World

Research for River Project (White), river project, Work in Progress
  • Discuss my own work- why I chose white, and how the audience’s perceptions would be different if I had presented the original objects in the gallery space (photos of my work in the gallery space
  • Rachel Whiteread’s use of white concrete and other white materials in her work (photos from the Tate Britain retrospective)
  • ‘The Whiteness of the Whale; Moby Dick’ discuss this chapter and quote how it describes white:
    -‘In many natural objects, whiteness refiningly enhances beauty, as if imparting some special virtue of its own’
    -‘This same hue is made the emblem of many touching, noble things- the innocence of brides, the benignity of age’
    -Native Americans are described as “Red Men of America” – this is an old work of fiction, and is impacted by the racism of the time
    -He also acknowledges that white has negative connotations- ‘Witness the white bear of the poles, and the white shark of the tropics; what but their smooth, flaky whiteness makes them the transcendent horrors they are? That ghastly whiteness it is which imparts such an abhorrent mildness, even more loathsome than terrific’
    -‘The common, hereditary experience of all mankind fail to bear witness to the supernaturalism of this hue. It cannot be well doubted, that the one visible quality in the aspect of the dead which most appals the gazer, is the marble pallor lingering there’ – white has a deep link to death
    -‘Or is it that as in essence whiteness is not so much a colour as the visible absence of colour, and at the same time the concrete of all colours’
  • Adolf Loos- ‘Ornament and Crime’
    -The racism- comparing Papua New Guinean tribes to children and criminals, and later ‘Are we alone, the people of the nineteenth century, supposed to be unable to do what any Negroe. All the races and periods before us have been able to do?’ (Speaking of the apparent realization that the people (meaning white people) of the nineteenth century found themselves unable to produce ornamental designs. (The lecture was originally given in 1908)
    -‘The evolution of culture is synonymous with the removal of ornament from utilitarian objects.’ The idea that plain things are better definitely arose during the industrial revolution- everyone needed things faster, and objects with no ornament could be produced even more quickly. But he also talks of ‘peasants’ ‘in the country’ as holding on to objects of past centuries, I would argue because they cannot afford new things- he shows disdain for lower classes as well as people of colour
    -‘We have art, which has taken the place of ornament. After the toils and troubles of the day we go to Beethoven or to Tristan. This my shoemaker cannot do. I mustn’t deprive him of his joy, since I have nothing else to put in its place.’ Here we see him discussing his shoemaker, and how the shoemakers’ only joy comes from ornamenting his shoes with decorative patterns- it is incredibly patronising to the working class, as he is stating that they cannot enjoy art, they can only derive enjoyment from the job they perform for the upper class
    -‘Absence of ornament has brought the other arts to unsuspected heights’
    -‘Freedom from ornament is a sign of spiritual strength. Modern man uses the ornaments of earlier or alien cultures as he sees fit. He concentrates his own inventiveness on other things’

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