Kathy Temin
My Mon­u­ment, Black Cube

3rd September – 3rd October 2009
Anna Schwartz Gallery

The black­ness of the fur trees in My Mon­u­ment: Black Cube 2009 is evoca­tive of both mourn­ing and sex­u­al­i­ty. The bleak­ness and beau­ty of black, its impen­e­tra­bil­i­ty, is so dif­fer­ent from the immer­sive expe­ri­ence of walk­ing through My Mon­u­ment: White For­est 2008, cur­rent­ly on dis­play in the sur­vey exhi­bi­tion at Hei­de Muse­um of Mod­ern Art. My Mon­u­ment: Black Cube 2009 is an object that is ask­ing to be walked around: there is nowhere else to go. White For­est is imbued with opti­mism, as it is locat­ed against a Wedg­wood blue back­drop whilst Black Cube is con­fronting, remote, dense and evoca­tive. I have been inter­est­ed in mourn­ing jew­el­ry, which has dense glossy sur­faces that have a seduc­tive mate­ri­al­i­ty sim­i­lar to my black and white glass pic­tures: Icon­ic Moments 2003.

I am the daugh­ter of a Hun­gar­i­an born Holo­caust sur­vivor and this has influ­enced my rela­tion­ship to mem­o­ry, his­to­ry and loss. How­ev­er the aim for My Mon­u­ment: Black Cube 2009 is to engage with both pri­vate and col­lec­tive ways of mark­ing the mem­o­ry of a per­son or event, an engage­ment not lim­it­ed to a par­tic­u­lar his­to­ry or event. I have done this through mak­ing repeat­ed forms in the uncon­ven­tion­al mate­r­i­al of syn­thet­ic fur that invokes the emo­tion­al con­tent in soft toy imagery. The trees are anthro­po­mor­phic through their large scale and physicality.

I am inter­est­ed in the rela­tion­ship of the view­er to the object; some­thing that has been high­light­ed for me through look­ing at and expe­ri­enc­ing the forms and mate­ri­al­i­ty of the work of both Eva Hesse and Richard Ser­ra. With Hesse it is the com­bi­na­tion of abstrac­tion with emo­tion, through repeat­ed forms and ref­er­ences to the abject body. With Ser­ra it is a sense of fear and claus­tro­pho­bia that the scale and heav­i­ness of the mate­r­i­al evokes for me.

When I vis­it­ed the con­cen­tra­tion camps in Europe I felt phys­i­cal­ly very small with­in these vast spaces that are sur­round­ed by beau­ti­ful tree-lined coun­try­side. I want­ed to cre­ate an object that com­bined that feel­ing of small­ness with the com­fort and pro­tec­tion of the soft­ness that the fur evokes. I am look­ing at this cube and at var­i­ous land­scapes and gar­dens with their pos­si­bil­i­ties for metaphor and con­tem­pla­tion; at notions asso­ci­at­ed with grief and loss, and with hope and faith.

There are oth­er artists who have approached the idea of the mon­u­ments: Sol Le Witt’s Mon­u­ment to the Miss­ing Jews 1988/1989 in Ham­burg-Altona, Ger­many, a large black rec­tan­gu­lar form, orig­i­nal­ly com­mem­o­rat­ed the miss­ing Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty of Mün­ster. Jochan and Esther Shalev-Gertz’s dis­ap­pear­ing steel col­umn, Mon­u­ment Against Fas­cism 1986 – 93 in Ham­burg-Har­burg Ger­many, was locat­ed close to a sub­ur­ban shop­ping cen­ter and low­ered into the ground over a peri­od of sev­en years. It involved passers-by who wrote their names in lead on the col­umn as a peti­tion against fascism.

When par­tic­i­pat­ing in a walk­ing tour of the Jew­ish area in Berlin in 2009 I came to appre­ci­ate that the city itself was a liv­ing, active mon­u­ment to the peo­ple that nev­er returned to their homes. The reminders of the past are part of the every­day urban envi­ron­ment with small gold memo­r­i­al tiles embed­ded into pave­ments that mark spe­cif­ic loca­tions where lost indi­vid­u­als or fam­i­lies once lived. Peter Eisenman’s Holo­caust Memo­r­i­al in Berlin is con­tem­pla­tive and thought­ful through the use of thou­sands of black con­crete plinths of vary­ing scales with paths that view­ers can walk through, plac­ing the audi­ence inside the work and gen­er­ates an immer­sive expe­ri­ence over a vast area. Rachael Whitread, Doris Sol­cedo and Mona Hatoum’s projects have been influ­en­tial for me for their reflec­tions of both pri­vate and col­lec­tive his­to­ries and mem­o­ries where the pres­ence of absence is evoked through the work.

These works and artists have con­tributed vary­ing ways for me to think about what might con­sti­tute a memo­r­i­al, a mon­u­ment; tak­ing it beyond nar­ra­tive or lit­er­al form. Mak­ing My Mon­u­ment: Black Cube has allowed me the space to reflect on how artists can con­tribute to the place­ment of pri­vate thoughts in pub­lic spaces.

This text has been extract­ed from and has extend­ed upon an inter­view with Andrew Ren­ton, Run­ning past a Richard Ser­ra” in Kathy Temin, Hei­de Muse­um of Mod­ern Art, 2009

The artist would like to thank: Arts Vic­to­ria, The Aus­tralia Coun­cil, Lenni Morkel-Kings­bury, Angela Thirl­well, Jeph Neale, Andrew Ren­ton, Jason Smith, Sue Cramer and Rebec­ca Ren­shaw at Hei­de Muse­um of Mod­ern Art and Kit Wise and Kathie Bar­wick at Monash Uni­ver­si­ty, Caulfield.


Kathy Temin

My Mon­u­ment: Black Cube, 2009
syn­thet­ic fur and fill­ing, wood, steel
355370370 cm
instal­la­tion view, Anna Schwartz Gallery