missing walls: bureaucracy at work, 2007, is on the left with, on the right, a bookcase by Charlotte Perriand in collaboration with Jean Prouvé’s workshop for La Maison de la Tunisie student rooms at the Cité Internationale Universitaire de Paris in 1952-3, where the bookshelves doubled as room dividers.
Missing walls and Perriand’s bookshelf were exhibited in dialogue with each other in Minimalism and Applied II, 2011, as part of the Daimler Art Collection, Berlin.
Both are self-supporting three-dimensional abstract paintings.
As well, although the four missing walls are not, in themselves, bookshelves, they nevertheless house the missing space of a national library once planned for the crest of Canberra atop Capital Hill where Parliament House now stands, as initially designed by architects Walter Burley and Marion Mahony Griffin in their 1911 winning entry for Australia’s then burgeoning capital.
Marion Mahony was the first woman licensed to practise as an architect in Illinois, North America, and the first architect employed by Frank Lloyd Wright. It is here that Marion Mahony met Walter Burley Griffin.
Marion and Walter Burley Griffins’ Canberra competition entry in 1911 brought them to Australia where they then established a fruitful practice that generated many architectural gems in Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne.
The triangular structural unit that comprises the walls in missing walls and which allows each to stand on its own without the bulk of a wall, repeats the triangle at the centre of the Griffins’ plan for Canberra (see Mahony Griffin’s drawing below). The top of Capital Hill where the National Library was first intended, is at the apex of one triangle mirrored by another alongs its base that has Mt Ainslie at its apex. It is breathtaking, still today, to marvel at how the Griffins mapped a geometry over a natural terrain that, through it, invokes a symbolic and historic emphasis of the terrain
Marion’s drawings for Canberra were, from what I understand, rendered on silk. To replicate this, the plan in missing walls is likewise rendered with watercolour on silk.
Although missing walls is permanently in the Daimler Art Collection in Berlin, whenever exhibited — if lined up with North when exhibited — it is aligned with Canberra.
This library, albeit missing, was not the first nor last library included in the work.
A colour saturated image of books in a bookshelf is at the centre of an otherwise empty book modelled on Patrick White’s hardcopy first edition of Eye of the Storm. The same bookshelf is part of a floorpan demarcation in This Performance — A Passing Thought, 1989, at what was then 200 Gertrude Street but is now Gertrude Contemporary.
In This is not an art library, 1992, one half of the work’s circular chair was placed in Victoria’s State Library in hope a viewer might challenge the assertion to reply, at least to themselves, that, to the contrary, the chair is in the actual space of an art library unlike René Magritte’s 1929 picture of a pipe inscribed ‘Ceci n’est pas une pipe’ (This is not a pipe) in his The Treachery of Images.
In Movie Plots, public sculpture ‘Vault’, 1994, double sided shelves eschew in each rooms, house ‘tumbled books’. Vault is a public sculpture by Ron Robertson-Swann comprising large, yellow painted metal planes tumbled together in comparison to the un-tumbled city grid in which it then stood.