white cube

When I was working at an art gallery as an assistant, one of my tasks was to sand paper the white walls in preparation for the upcoming shows. This task reminded of Mark Wigley's book "White Walls, Designer Dresses." Although I was unable to locate a spare copy of his book to go back to it, I found an essay Wigley wrote on a similar theme, "The Secret Life of the Gallery Wall."

Wigley is right; the gallery walls are white most of the time. Yet, what I found more fascinating after I contemplated about the whiteness of the space is how most of these galleries have their websites’ backgrounds also white. Similar to the interest in polishing the white walls to make them disappear behind the artworks, here, the infrastructure of the websites are specifically designed to disappear in favor of the displayed information – that is the art. Graphic design—not architecture as in the case of white walls—is erased.

In erasing the existing space for creating an ethereal one, one possibly cannot realize how these spaces happen to be the contact points between two disciplines. The infrastructure provided either by the white walls or by the white website backgrounds serves as a foundation for the displayed art. These erased spaces, then, become the evidence of how one discipline is founded on another, or, rather, how one discipline serves to another. As an ambitious designer, I see this dynamic between art and graphic design as flawed.

Even if there is an interest in giving self-sufficiency to graphic design, (this was achieved in the “Graphic Design in the White Cube” exhibition where graphic designers were asked to create posters for the exhibition that displayed these posters), most of the time, this has been achieved in art spaces, namely the galleries or the museums. Yet what I am trying to understand is this: Is art the only independent discipline that is free of serving to any another? Do we need art, art spaces, what we think of art, and what we associate with art (that is the individual expression) for providing a self-sufficient space to other disciplines where they can try to be independent and more like “art?”

I do not know the answer to any of these questions. Yet, I do believe that rather than trying to erase the space by making graphic design give into art, aspire to art or try to be like art, graphic design needs to have its own space and not be so “white.” A way to accomplish this can be advocating the coexistence of multi disciplines while letting them clash with one another.