"To move the work is to destroy the work." ~ Richard Serra

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Keith Barrett’s “Whalsay” (2001)

In 2001, Keith Barrett designed a wooden structure to be placed on the island of Whalsay in Shetland, Scotland. This structure really draws from its surroundings, especially the water visible in the distance. From certain angles, the structure appears like a shell sticking out of the ground. Other views of the structure suggest boats turned on their sides. Without the sea nearby, it is doubtful that the viewers would be able to make the connection between the shape of the structure and its meaning. For those who dare to enter in between the two sides of the structure, it also serves as shelter from the high winds. From all these different interpretations of the structure, it is easy to see how its surroundings really play into how it is viewed, interpreted, and understood.

Barrett accurately stresses the importance of each element for the success of the piece, saying: "It is only complete in the relationship between the work, its environment and the viewer. Remove one element of this relationship from the equation and the art loses its meaning. The environment of the work is as much a part of the artwork as the built elements. The person who sees the work and engages with it completes the whole."

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