The White Cube

Concept drawing, 1995, watercolor, colored pencil and lead pencil, 26,4 x 32,1 cm, signed on the back

YEAR: 1993

CATALOGUE NUMBER: 69

PROVENANCE

There were three versions; version 1, version 2, and version 3

None of the versions are preserved.

EXHIBITIONS

Version 1

Musée de la Poste, Paris
L’adresse provisoire pour l’art contemporain russe, 25 May – 28 August 1993

Version 2 (Organisation: AFAA, Association Française d’Action Artistique, Paris)

Klagenfurt, Austria
Do it, Kunsthalle Ritter, 30 September – 25 November 1994

Glasgow, Scotalnd, United Kingdom
CCA Centre for Contemporary Arts, 22 June – 29 July 1995

Nantes, France
FRAC, 28 October – 21 December 1995

Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
Institute of Modern Art, 22 February – 23 March 1996

Reykjavik, Iceland
The Reykjavik Municipal Art Museum, 30 March – 12 May 1996

Bogotá, Colombia
Biblioteca Luis Ángel Arango, 5 March – 25 May 1997

‘La Grancia’, Serre di Rapolano, Italy
Centro Civico per L’Arte Contemporanea, 8 May – 24 May 1996

Helsinki, Finland
Helsinki Taidehalli, 29 May – 11 August 1996

Genève, Switzerland
Espace Forde, 31 May – 7 July 1996

Bangkok, Thailand
Bangkok University Art Gallery, 5 October – 2 November 1996

Uppsala, Sweden
Konstmuseum, 9 November – 1 December 1996

Tallin, Estonia
Tallinna Kunstihoones, 21 March – 13 April 1997

Gütersloh, Germany
Kunstverein Gütersloh, 20 May – 7 June 1997

Copenhagen, Denmark
Nicolaj Contemporary Art Center, 13 October 1997 – 4 Januar 1998

Version 3 (Organisation: ICI, Independent Curators Incorporated, New York)

Palo Alto, California, United States
Do it, Palo Alto Cultural Center, 15 June – 27 July 1997

Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, United States
Cranbrook Museum, 30 August – 26 October 1997

Reading, Pennsylvania, United States
Freedman Gallery, 23 January – 1 March 1998

Surrey, British Columbia, Canada
Surrey Art Gallery, 8 March – 19 April 1998

Worcester, Massachusetts, United States
Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery, College of the Holy Cross, 18 March – 19 April 1998

Exeter, New Hampshire, United States
Lamont Gallery, Philips Exeter Academy, 17 April – 9 May 1998

Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada
Dunlop Art Gallery, 9 May – 14 June 1998

Saline County, Kansas, United States
Salina Art Center, 16 Mai – 2 August 1998

Boulder, Colorado, United States
Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, 12 June – 30 August 1998

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States
Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, 4 September – 1 November 1998

Boise, Idaho, United States
Visual Art Center, Boise State University, 15 September – 25 October 1998

Calgary, Alberta, Canada
The Nickle Art Museum, University of Calgary, 25 September – 23 December 1998

Portland, Maine, United States
Institute of Contemporary Art, Maine College of Art, 12 November – 18 December 1998

Morristown, New Jersey, United States
The Morris Museum, 10 January – 4 April 1999

Camden, New Jersey, United States
Stedman Gallery, Rutgers University, 12 January – 4 April 1999

Fort Lauderdale, Florida, United States
Museum of Art, 14 January – 2 April 1999

Ithaca, New York, United States
Handwerker Gallery, Ithaca College, 21 October – 14 December 1999

Boulder, Colorado, United States
Colorado State University, 24 March – 28 April 2000

Scottsdale, Arizona, United States
Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, 3 June – 26 August 2000

Appleton, Wisconsin, United States
Wriston Art Center Galleries, Lawrence University, 29 September – 11 November 2000

CONCEPT AND DESCRIPTION OF THE INSTALLATION

In the exhibition hall, preferably in a rather crowded pavilion, stands a white cube that is 2.8 meters tall. Each wall has a width of 3 meters. The surface of the cube is very smooth, shiny, and is covered with white enamel.

There are ladders on two sides of the cube, the last landing of which is at a height of 1.76 meters so that the viewer might ascend and stand there. On the top surface of the cube, right in the center, there is a small piece of paper with a text: ‘Everyplace we were it smelled strongly of oil.’

The essence of the installation is that the viewer, ascending the stairs to the top, expects to be able to look downward into the cube and see something there. Instead what he finds in front of him is a smooth surface and a text that turns out to be so far away and so small, that it is impossible to read. It is impossible to read this for another reason, too. If the ‘white cube’ is erected in a low dwelling, then the top edge will wind up close to the ceiling and it will be rather dark in this interval.

The ‘effect’ of this installation will work especially well when two people coincidentally and simultaneously ascend the two ladders. Then each one will see his protagonist at the other end of the cube, ridiculously squeezed between the edge and the ceiling. There is a metaphor at the base of this installation: there is something very important very close to us, you can ‘almost touch it,’ but we cannot attain it, despite expending our efforts to do so.

There are, of course, other ‘overtones.’ Among others, is the concept familiar to all art of the 20th Century of the ‘white cube.’ Having been born and gotten its start in the Suprematism of Malevich, it gradually became the signifier of the space of the museum of modern art with its white walls, white ceiling, and absent windows. The white cube by the end of the century had taken its place next to the Black Square, a symbol of modern art, a nominal concept and image that found its reflection in the architecture of the Bauhaus and in American Minimalism.

In the installation proposed here, this cube functions as a paraphrase of this idea as the very same white space, only turned inside out and placed askance inside the museum, as a ridiculous object. And people, of course, crawl around not inside of it, but on the outside: there is an intriguing empty box inside another box. There is one empty cube inside another. This combination appears both intriguing and profound, but boring. The other objects or paintings present in this same place impart the irony, meaning, life and dismissal of this profundity. It’s as though they don’t notice this cube, like tiny animals, don’t notice an elephant. But the presence of this white ‘elephant’ is not at all indifferent for the perception of these other such ‘normal’ (in the sense of commensurable human dimensions) objects. They get lost and lose their meaning in its presence. Because the cube is of such size in the room, it is not a part of the architecture, the interior, but it is also not an object. It is something strange, incomprehensible and because of its white color and reflecting surface, it is even a little bit mystical. … Perhaps Malevich would be quite pleased with such a relative …

The ladders, of course, also add a little to the intrigue. Should I ascend or not? Make the effort or not? Is it risky at my age? And when I crawl to the top, won’t it look stupid and won’t I be in a ridiculous position?

But what if there really is something there, and I will be rewarded if I do climb up there?

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