Rachel Whiteread

‘Untitled (Twenty-Four Switches)’ is iconic of Rachel’s concrete cast work. Although seemingly unremarkable, the piece is a negative cast of a light switch box, turning the positive space into negative space. By rendering the switches useless, it creates a subtle unsettling helplessness in the space where it is mounted on the wall. It draws attention to the safety we take for granted in every day items.

Untitled (Twenty-Four Switches) 1998 Rachel Whiteread born 1963 Purchased from funds provided by the Gytha Trust 2003 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T07985


Her emphasis on giving value to the negative space and unnoticed, yet frequently used spaces is iconic of her work. The concrete material she frequently uses adds to this theme of the common and unnoticed feature of the world, as a great deal of our modern world is made from concrete.

This can also carry itself to a political and commemorative format. Her Holocaust monument from 2000 uses her “Un-walling” method of casting the wall’s negative space and recreating this “inner house” that physically carries concrete weight. Her usual style of creating an imposing, unsettling feeling relates perfectly to the horrific tragedy of the holocaust and pays tribute to the Jewish lives lost during the second world.

It resides in Judenplatz; a town square in Vienna’s Innere Stadt that was the center of Jewish life and the Viennese Jewish Community in the Middle Ages, creating an impact due to the historical collision of cultures. Vienna was where Adolf Hitler, the dictator behind the Holocaust, came to begin a career pursuing the arts. There are many stories of Hitler being homeless in Vienna and sleeping at friends’ houses. This piece commemorates the loss of lives, whilst also realising the lost path of Hitler’s adolescence – extending this realisation of potential to the common people of Vienna.