Visual Arts Programme
The Concourse Installation 2001
Derek Whitticase - Room
Derek Whitticase's installation Room comprised of three wooden structures, each a different shape and all three constructed out of an open grid structure of equal proportions. Although varying in shape, each structure defined the same amount of space, 1000 cubic feet. The structures were based upon familiar architectural units - a corridor, a lift shaft and an office -reduced to their essential forms. In line with these architectural references the structures all had doorways to allow the viewer to walk into them.
On first view the three structures could be viewed as minimalist, pure forms - sculptures pared down to the essentials of scale, material and mass. However, the doorways in each structure suggested readings beyond the purely sculptural and on entering them we became more aware of their basis in familiar architectural spaces, namely a lift, corridor and office. These are all architectural units held with in the Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council offices and in most public spaces that we encounter. Through the means of isolation and simplification, Whitticase drew our attention to the architectural spaces that we physically encounter in our public life, but which we rarely notice.
Whitticase's stated intention on approaching making work for the impressive Concourse of the Council Hall was to activate and address the whole space, and the resulting installation Room related visually, spatially and conceptually to its surroundings. Whereas the decorative ornamentalism of Bedding Out created a deliberate opposition to the clean modernist lines of the Concourse space, the minimalism of Room complimented the space. A relationship emphasised by our continued awareness of our position within the Concourse even when inside Room as we could always see beyond the form of the structures to the Concourse enclosing the installation.
Conceptually Room took us beyond this space again, beyond the confines of the Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council building itself, to the wider urban environment of Dublin and further. The architectural units referred to can be found in internal and external civic spaces across the world. Whitticase is interested in how we, as individuals, encounter these spaces and physically relate to them. An awareness of our relationship to the structures that contain and surround us leads to consideration of the amount of time we spend in our modern lives 'contained' by some sort of spatial construction - our offices, shopping centres, houses, cars, trains. How do we function in these different spaces and how is our behaviour affected by our physical relationship to them? Each of the structures in Room gave us a different sense of our physical being and scale - although in each instance we were standing in the same amount of space, 1000 cubic feet.
Whitticase clearly identified the amount of space contained by the structures as1000 cubic feet, and consequently this space took on a sculptural presence equivalent to the solid material used to build the structures. They were not empty but full of air, now identified as a mass manipulated into different forms. When we entered these structures we were not only physically encountering the wooden forms but the space contained within them. Viewed in these terms space has enormous sculptural potential; a sculptural medium that is fluid and immaterial but which surrounds us all the time and is integral to the spatial relationships that shape our physical experience. Walking through the installation Room created a heightened awareness of our physical presence, and offered a chance to consider our relationship spatially and conceptually to our environment, from the grandeur of civic spaces to the mundane, and ultimately to the space surrounding us.