Jacob’s Ladder

Jacob's Ladder

The following description is from the Whitechapel Art Gallery’s website in describing Kader Attia’s Continuum of Repair: The Light of Jacobs Ladder:

A towering structure fills the lofty spaces, with seemingly endless shelves filled with centuries of accumulated human knowledge. Through the spaces between books and artefacts lies an inner sanctum, a warmly-lit cabinet of curiosities. Above, a vast mirror reflects a horizontal beam of light, transforming it into the rungs of a ladder to infinity.

This intriguing new work of art is by Kader Attia (b.1970), a French-Algerian artist now working in Berlin. He has been inspired by the religious story in which the prophet Jacob has a vision of angels ascending to heaven, as well as by the very walls of Gallery 2, steeped in its history as the former reading room of the Whitechapel Library, a crucible of British Modernism.

The installation is the latest chapter in Kader Attia’s research into the concept of repair, which he sees as an underlying principle of development and evolution in both culture and nature. As Attia says ‘the biggest illusion of the Human Mind is probably the one on which Man has built himself: the idea that he invents something, when all he does is repair.’

An intriguing installation and fascinating to wander around. Looking up the infinity mirrors reminded me of looking up a climbing shaft in an old mine.

Attia’s comment about repair being an underlying principle of development and evolution in nature shows a profound (but very arty) ignorance of science. It’s certainly essential to maintenance of an organism, but not its development, nor to the evolution of a species.

Gwynne House, Whitechapel

Gwynne House

Designed by the architect Hume Victor Kerr in 1934, this modern movement 5-storey apartment block in Turner Street was originally used by the London Hospital as staff accommodation.The building makes a feature of its curved staircase tower, which in Scotland would be called a close. The image is of the junction between the staircase tower and the balconies giving access to the individual apartments.

The building was sold to private developers in 2012.