Irene F. Whittome

Château d’eau : lumière mythique, 1997

Artist
Irene F. Whittome
Title
Château d’eau : lumière mythique
Dimensions and medium
Cedar, metal, mirrors, narwhal ivory tusks, motor and light, A320 × 305 cm (diameter)
Artwork description
For several decades, Irene F. Whittome has maintained a quasi-anthropological practice. Her research involves collecting and creating artifacts from modern civilisation, as with her installation Château d'eau : lumière mythique. In the spirit of conservation practices normally associated with museums, Whittome salvaged an old wooden water tower that had been used to collect rain water, and repurposes it as the central element of this piece. By leaving the object untouched, the artist preserves its historical imprint. However, the transfer of the artifact into a new context (the museum or exhibition space), modifies its primary function, giving it new symbolic meaning. Here, it becomes a reservoir of light. For Whittome, the light that spills over the top of the piece evokes a kind of mystical energy that compels us to reflect on the human condition, while the light that escapes the lower edges of the tower symbolizes the energy that inhabits us and allows us to act on these impulses. In addition to its significant symbolic weight, the structure’s monumental size physically dominates the space.

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