Rachel Whiteread’s work reminds me of Chinese Taoist philosophical thinking on the existence and nihility.

Tao is not an entity, it is the process of everything. Tao is the way of the continuation, is in the process. Way of things, means a way to continue. Therefore, everything has its own way. As for order, in the thought of Zhuang Zi, Tao is in front of things. In other words, things show themselves in ways that validate his own existence.

莊子(Zhuang Zi):『有先天地生者物邪?物物者非物,物出不得先物也,猶其有物也。無已。』

The meaning is that there is nothing be created before the created world. Which created the world must not be a exist thing.  Because if there is a thing before the thing, then it has not been exhausted.

Rachel Whiteread’s work has modeled a lot of negative space, the most famous of which is architecture. What exactly does the negative existence mean to us?




“Thirty spokes meet at a nave, because of the hole we may use the wheel.
Clay is moulded into a vessel, because of the hollow we may use the cup.
Walls are built around a hearth, because of the doors we may use the house.
Thus tools come from what exists, but use from what does not.”


The general explanation is that most people only pay attention to the actual role, ignoring the role of emptiness. “existence”and “nihility” are interdependent and mutually used. Virtual things can produce great utility, but not easy for the average person to find. In particular, Lao-Tzu demonstrated the role of “nothingness.”

It is correct that Lao Tzu thinks that the bowl, the tea pot, the house, etc. are the dialectical and unification of “existence”and “nihility”. However, it is somewhat incorrect to think that “nihility” is the main antinomy. After all, Tea pots, houses, etc., where empty places can work. If there is no tea dish, bowl, house, etc., there is no natural hollow, no effect at all.

Finally, I am also thinking about a very interesting question, what if you turn the negative space of Rachel Whiteread into another model?









Yu Ting Hsu