Bathroom Sink

Robert Whitman

New York, USA, 1935
  • Series: 
    Cinema Pieces
  • Date: 
    1964 (produced in 2003)
  • Dimensions: 
    Variable dimensions
  • Edition/serial number: 
    Unique work
  • Media description: 
    Video (16 mm film transferred to DVD; colour, silent, 8 min. 24 sec.), mirror and washbasin
  • Category: 
    Installation, Video
  • Entry date: 
  • Register number: 

Robert Whitman is an essential artist in the configuration of what we understand as performance art and happenings, and also in the incorporation of the film medium into other languages. He used cinema for the first time in what he called “Theatre Pieces”, a form of performance art in which the audience had to participate in a collective and very visceral experience. Beginning in 1963 he took a step beyond that and started to create a series of installations with film that he called “Cinema Pieces”. Conceived for gallery spaces, these works entailed the fusion of a number of materials and concepts with which Whitman had worked previously – visuality mediated through moving images, the use of found domestic objects and the ideas of sculpture and performance –, presented in a hitherto unknown dialogue as a way of exploring a new experience.
Bathroom Sink is the sixth and final work in the series. The film, projected onto a mirror, bounces off the mirror and is seen reflected on the opposite wall. It shows a woman combing her hair, brushing her teeth, putting on her make-up, etc. The model’s manner in the bathroom is reminiscent of scenes from 19th century painting and their poetic, sensual and desire-inciting implications. However, the film image created by Whitman is not erotic, but rather methodical, and it contains a ritual component characteristic of performance art. In addition, the piece must be penetrated by the spectator in order to be activated, thus allowing him or her to participate in the beam of light, the reflection, the idea of doubleness, all of which fall within Whitman’s interest in generating oniric games.

Lola Hinojosa