Monday, April 17, 2006

little boxes

Me and my hangover went to the Tate Modern; a rather scary double act (well I was scared, hangovers do that to me) in a big coat which kept flapping at people.

I was surprised to see that the Rachel Whiteread installation 'Embankment' was still there - I thought I'd missed it. I've heard a few opinions of this installation, mainly of the 'What the bloody hell's that all about?' variety. Some people regard Whiteread as a one-trick pony, who stumbled upon the fabulous idea of casting the negative spaces of things and has failed to do anything much else ever since. I don't really have a problem with her singular approach: you don't hear people complaining that Monet never got past impressionism, do you?

Having said this I found 'Embankment' difficult to warm to. The installation comprises multiple casts of the insides of cardboard boxes and (apparently) explores the concept of storage of unknown personal items as well as relating to a trip to the Arctic. The problem for me was that the inside of a cardboard box looks much the same as the outside so I 'read' the boxes as..boxes. I also took personal umbrage with the polyurethane used to make the boxes. It's lightweight and it looks it. I'd have been happier if the boxes were of their original plaster or cast in resin, though I can see that producing 14,000 of these might have been less than simple. I was also slightly obsessed by how many repeated boxes I could see. She cast ten. I wonder whether there are 1400 of each, or whether it's a random number that comes to 14,000. Did someone count them? This is the sort of stuff that gets in the way of the art for me. When I see pics of 'House' I just think 'wow', and then later on start wondering about the practicalities. For me that makes it a better piece of work then 'Embankment'.

So: interesting but somehow not satisfying.

I wonder how it was all delivered?