Kenyon College

Ilya Kabakov


Kabakov, Ilya

The White Cube (1991)


Construct a wooden cube 8’ high x 8’ 6” wide in the exhibition room. The surface of the cube is smooth, glossy, and painted white. Two stepladders are placed on either side of the cube, the last step being as near as possible to a height of 5’ 9” so that you can climb the stepladder and stand up. Inside the cube, at the exact center, place a piece of paper folded in two, on which is handwritten in very small writing in the local language, “Wherever you went, there was a strong smell of petrol.”

The idea of the installation is as follows: The spectator, climbing the stepladder, expects to find what is inside the cube: instead, he sees from a distance a text written in so small that he can neither read it nor unravel the enigmatic message. Even better, if the top of the cube were to almost touch the ceiling, the mysterious effect would be increased. The situation will be particularly comical when two spectators simultaneously climb the two stepladders: they will find themselves face to face with their protagonist, stuck between the edge of the cube and the ceiling.

The installation is clearly based on metaphor: the enigmatic message is almost within our grasp, we can see it, but we cannot reach it, despite all our efforts (the fact of climbing the ladder).

 2138 Paris, Nicolas2153 Kabakov Ilya 2165 Kabakov Ilya

Artist: Ilya Kabakov
Title of Work:
The White Cube (1991)
Year: 1991
Do it Installation Gund Gallery 2013

Peggy Hall

So, what is this elusive quality we call “happiness”? Whatever it is you seek, I hope you find it. -an admirer from North Carolina

10 years ago