Experiences of absence are often disrupted by presences. Your friend didn’t come to the party, but your experience of her absence deteriorates the moment you spot an attractive face across the room. But presences may also emphasize absences: seeing new buildings in the old neighborhood can heighten the sense of absence of what they have replaced.

Rosemarie Trockel’s sculpture is about replacement. The table is missing a pair of legs, and there is a new set of legs added. Despite the obvious absence, the table does not seem incomplete. Addition of the “alien” legs, paradoxically, makes the table look stable and whole. As a result, the overall experience seems strange. How is that we can see that the table is missing something, yet at the same time, the table seems complete, not lacking in anything? Perhaps we do not actually see that the table misses something. The “alien” legs draw our attention, forestalling perception of absence. But we don’t have to go for this interpretation. For ordinary objects, something can be seen without commanding full attention. Absences might obey the same rule. In Trockel’s sculpture, the presence of the extraordinary may be more experientially striking than the absence of the ordinary. But perception of absence is still there. It is composed and precise, and perhaps this is its virtue.

Rosemarie Trockel. Table 2. 2006. Glazed ceramic, steel and wood

Leggy Absence

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