Keith Arnatt

Invisible Hole Revealed by the Shadow of the Artist


Not on display

Keith Arnatt 1930–2008
Photograph, gelatin silver print on paper
Image: 608 × 756 mm
Transferred from Tate Archive 2010


For Invisible Hole Revealed by the Shadow of the Artist 1968 Arnatt dug a square hole in an area of grass, in the bottom of which he placed the cut-out grass before lining the sides with mirrors so that the hole became imperceptible within the larger surface of grass. It was only when a viewer’s shadow was cast over the hole that its presence was revealed, as is documented by this self portrait. As with Portrait of the Artist as a Shadow of his Former Self 1969–72 (Tate P13143), Arnatt’s use of photography in his work became a means to undermine confidence in the veracity of the photographic medium. He has commented: ‘I was beginning to become aware of the unreliability of photographic evidence and began to play with that feature. I felt that what a photograph could not tell or show might be just as significant as what it could.’ (Quoted in John Roberts, The Impossible Document: Photography and Conceptual Art in Britain 1966-1976, London 1997, p.47.) The art historian Hilary Gresty has commented:

The idea of something which one could not see becoming an art-work, and that of the process of making something of which there was no evidence of any activity having taken place intrigued Arnatt. Invisible Hole Revealed by the Shadow of the Artist was a simple self-effacing statement of the division between the concept, the process of making the art-work and the actual finished result … The absurdity of creating a work with the specific notion that it should not be visible seemed an almost ritualistic process of reduction which could be treated with a certain amount of irony.
(Hilary Gresty in 1965 to 1972 – When Attitudes Became Form, exhibition catalogue, Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge 1984, p.29.)

This is one of a group of existing materials that were proposed by Keith Arnatt at the time of his participation in Seven Exhibitions at the Tate Gallery, London in 1972. Other works that were exhibited alongside it included Portrait of the Artist as a Shadow of his Former Self 1969–72 (Tate P13145), Art as an Act of Retraction 1971 (Tate P13140), Art as an Act of Omission 1971 (Tate P13144), I Have Decided to Go to the Tate Gallery next Friday 1971 (Tate P13142, exhibited with the title Tate Work), Rejected Proposal for the Peter Stuyvesant ‘City Sculpture Project’ (For Cardiff City) 1972 (Tate P13141), Self-Burial (Television Interference Project) 1969 (Tate T01747, exhibited with the title The Disappearance of the Artist), 2448000–0000000 1969/1972 (described as ‘an “exhibition” of the duration of the exhibition by the following means: a digital count-down system will count down the duration of the exhibition in seconds’), Type-Token 1970, Art and Egocentricity – a perlocutionary act? 1971 and Tate Gallery Staff Exhibition 1972. The content of the exhibition changed during its run. Because of widespread power-cuts at the start of the exhibition, 2448000–0000000 was initially replaced by Tate Gallery Staff Exhibition, though this – a presentation of the staff cards of all employees of the gallery – was removed after three days and it is thought that 2448000–0000000 was activated on the seventh day of the exhibition. In their range, the works brought together as Arnatt’s presentation for Seven Exhibitions illustrate the move in his work from the making of situational sculptures to a documentation of actions that question – through a linking of philosophical text with image – the status of art and the role and identity of the artist, whom Arnatt shows to be in different states of disappearance. This work was transferred from the Tate Gallery Archive in 2010.

Further reading
Seven Exhibitions, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1972.
The New Art, exhibition catalogue, Hayward Gallery, London 1972.
I’m a Real Photographer: Keith Arnatt Photographs 1974–2002, exhibition catalogue, Photographer’s Gallery, London 2007.
Conceptual Art in Britain 1964–1979, exhibition catalogue, Tate Britain, London 2016, p.19, reproduced p.18.

Andrew Wilson
May 2010, revised December 2020

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