Category: Commissions — Published:

“For this show, and for the first time, the installation process was opened to the public… I really wanted to allow the visitor the possibility to follow the process from the very beginning so different bodies will interact with the installation. The fact that during the lockdown the body was absent in the space, like ghosts, made me connect the body also with the memory and absence.” – Carlos Bunga

For Something Necessary and Useful, his first major UK commission for the Whitechapel Gallery, Carlos Bunga  (b.1976, Portugal, lives and works in Spain) envisioned creating two separate structures to stand in the historic Whitechapel Library space, referring to the contrasts and tensions in the shifting architecture and demographics surrounding the Gallery. Made of cardboard, they accentuate the temporality of his installation, embodying concepts of permeance and fragility, which are intrinsic to his practice. These structures were not intended to be stationary, as, much like the city, they would be reconfigured over the course of the exhibition.

By installing in situ and by hand, Bunga’s work explores the relationship between bodies, physical space and time. From granting access to visitors during the installation period to collaborating with dancers, Bunga wants to emphasise our interaction with the work, transforming the gallery  ‘from a space of circulation to one of freedom’.

Due to the travel restrictions related to Covid-19, Bunga was unable to return to the Whitechapel Gallery to cut and restructure his piece. For the first time he decided to collaborate remotely with dancer Dane Hurst and the Gallery’s technical team. They de-constructed and interacted with the cardboard walls and columns as they were cut and removed, becoming stand-ins for the artist.

Though one side of the construction was entirely removed, its foundations were left in place, as a reminder of the mutability of structures and the passage of time. Bunga sees spatial rearrangement as a form of choreography in itself, of which these fragments left behind are testimonials.

Images: Installation view of Carlos Bunga: Something Necessary and Useful at Whitechapel Gallery. 21 January – 13 September 2020 © Whitechapel Gallery. Photo: Tim Bowditch.