David Batchelor – Monochrome Archive 1997-2015
David Batchelor’s exhibition in the Whitechapel Gallery exploring the idea of the monochrome, by photographing random white A4 proportioned white rectangles, in and around London, and other cities in the UK, Europe, North and South America and Asia.
The images are an accumulation of 20 years work amassing to around 500 images. Walking into the space you are greeted by a multi-screen installation, consisting of four large screens suspended from the ceiling, in a square formation as well as smaller wall mounted screens and a light box to your right. The transaction period between slides on the large screens was relatively slow compared to the rapid speed of the smaller screens. This intense speed meant that it was difficult to focus on the images before you, seeing only fragments with the constant of the white square located in the centre of each image, this gave the impression of movement, similar to that of looking out of a moving vehicle’s window. The images on each individual screen make up a visual map of the different cities that Bachelor visited.
Batchelor was inspired by a lecture he attended by Jeff Wall on “On Kawara and the Monochrome”, Wall said when talking about the monochrome that it is “… the epitome of high abstract art and that it could not represent the everyday life of the city.” Bachelor disagreed and sort to prove wall wrong by doing exactly what wall said could not be done.
The central element of the white rectangle are eye-catching, the bright white contrasts with the dull backgrounds mainly consisting on brickwork and other industrial materials. If the rectangle was of any other colour the impact would not be the same. In a sense these rectangles are “readymades” (a feature of post-modernist art) they fit the definition of a pre-made, common, everyday object that has been altered or unaltered, that has been removed from it function/purpose and elevated to the status of art due to the actions of the artist. The monochromes are not created by Batchelor they are simple observed and recorded.
It is clear that this exhibition is a product of time and labour, getting the shots so the white panel is consistently central to the image is a challenge in itself. The screens depict the monochromes chronologically, divided between the landscape and portrait screens dependent on the orientation of the rectangle. Batchelor’s photographs are digital projections of slides taken on a 35mm Nikon FM2 film camera rather than digital photograph.
David Batchelor “No.57, Stoke Newington, London, 15.08.98.” (1998)
The light box to the right of the door, illuminates the original slides. These slide are annotated with scrawled notes and numbers around the edges. Every slide has a unique number with a corresponding title (place, the city and the date) for example “No.57, Stoke Newington, London, 15.08.98.” The structure of the title is regimented, ordered and descriptive, to the point and with the addition of the date the titles create a record of time. By displaying the slides alongside the screens you get an insight into the process Bachelor went through when creating this exhibition.
The exhibition itself is continuous, ever changing and evolving each time it is shown. The work is ongoing with no defined end. Leaving the exhibition for days after you find yourself finding your own monochromes.