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 works which were exhibited, or intended to be exhibited in Keith Arnatt’s participation in Seven Exhibitions at the Tate Gallery, London in 1972. Other works from this group are Portrait of the Artist as a Shadow of his Former Self 1969–72, 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) and Rejected Proposal for the Peter Stuyvesant ‘City Sculpture Project’ (For Cardiff City) 1972 (Tate P13141). In their range they illustrate the move in Arnatt’s work from the making of situational sculptures to a documentation of performative acts 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 group of work was presented by the artist to Tate Gallery Archive in 1972 and transferred to the collection 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.

Andrew Wilson
May 2010

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