Space of Leaving

Kreis Gallery, Nuremberg Germany, curator Thomas Mai

In his book, “Inside the White Cube – The Ideology of the Gallery Space”, Brian O’Doherty (1976) relates to the white cube, that is – the gallery space, as a potential symbol for buffering the artist from society. In order to present his work, argues O’Doherty, the artist leaves behind the normative public space in favor of the separated space, where concepts of time and space receive a different meaning. The White Cube facilitates a temporary segregation of the artist and in turn he is asked to operate and create in accordance with the methodology and values of the gallery space. The gallery mediates between the artist and the public, depending on the public, without which its very existence is challenged.The white cube is a manifestation of the art-for-art sake ethos in its modern incarnation: abstract, geometrical and minimalist. Architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe phrased it as “less is more”: no unnecessary ornamentations or beautifications: tall and white, precise clean expression as seen in the architecture of museums in the 20th century. The White Cube elicits an independent and idiosyncratic activity – like religious temples, one is expected to speak quietly, to avoid eating and drinking. The White Cube too fosters the myth of pseudo-spirituality, emphasizing the suppression of individual interests for the sake of the group. The White Cube therefore carries a religious quality for those who enter it and choose to abide by its laws. But it is not only mundane space that changes upon entry to the White Cube, but also time; the laws of realistic linear time mend here. Even your own body – the body of the viewer – is dispensable. In an ideal world – it is but eyes and autonomic space that exist – the perfect match of the gallery space, so says O’Doherty. The work of art is thus separated from anything which might divert it from its own self-value. The construction of galleries is formed on rigid rules, resembling those of building medieval churches. The external world must not penetrate its sanctity. Therefore, windows are shut, white are the walls, and light is provided by the ceiling.  The wooden floor is polished or covered in carpets so one may step there silently, leaving no trace of sound.