Demolished is a series of twelve photographs capturing the ‘before’ and ‘after’ conditions of three different buildings in East London estates which were blown up between 1993 and 1996. Whiteread uses a time-lapse camera and arranges the stark black and white photographs in sequential order, reading each column from top to bottom, so that you can imagine what it might have been like to witness the moment when these high rise buildings were detonated.
Whiteread freezes and documents a moment of transition that would otherwise become permanently lost in the past. While the exterior of each of the buildings is nondescript, you can imagine the countless memories once contained inside those walls. The notion of loss is central to this work and Whiteread’s use of the photographic image creates an immediate sense of nostalgia.
Critics such as Roland Barthes have argued that any photograph, even the ones that we have in our family photo albums, remind us of loss and death. A photograph is always a memento that refers to the past. When we look at them we are faced with the reality that while we can record the past, we can never go back and re-visit that moment. With this in mind, Whiteread’s Demolished series becomes a kind of memorial for all the experiences that were lost along with the building.