ARTIST: Catherine Yass born 1963
MEDIUM: Transparency on lightbox
DIMENSIONS: Unconfirmed: 890 x 725 x 140 mm
ACQUISITION: Presented by the Patrons of New Art (Special Purchase Fund) through the Tate Gallery Foundation 1996

‘Corridors’ is an art series that caught my attention not only because of the beautifully unsettling pictures but also because they are all taken in mental hospitals. The question that came to my mind was: “how can anyone be mentally sane in spaces like these?”. I am aware of the fact that they are edited, however the sterile and impersonal setting would make just about anyone mentally insane. This makes me, once again, question the way in which society treats diagnosed persons, the way in which they are supposed to gain mental health seems far from anything I would personally do to feel better. Sit in an empty room with white walls and little human contact?

“Corridors is a series of eight photographic transparencies displayed in light boxes. Featuring mainly luminous blues, greens and yellows as a result of the artist’s manipulation of photographic film, they depict interior spaces in a hospital. The photographs are in sharp focus only in the foreground of the image, at the level of the corridor walls, and have been taken with a shallow depth of field. This results in dissolution into more abstracted forms in the areas further away from the camera. In most images this is in the centre, which dissolves into an intense blue glow. Blue light, similar in shade to that of ‘Chartres blue’, a long-lasting blue stained glass developed in the twelfth century in France for church windows, has become a signature element to Yass’s work. Her technique for making images involves taking two photographs of her subject and superimposing them. One is a ‘positive’ image, the normal form of a photographic image, and the other is a ‘negative’ image, where light and dark are inverted as on the negative of a photographic print. The photographs are taken within a few seconds of each other. Yass has explained: ‘The negative image makes bright areas blue, so bright or transparent areas get blocked by the blue. The final picture is produced by overlaying the positive and blue negative images and printing from that. I think of the space between positive and negative images as a gap.’ (Quoted in Adams, p.81.) She has described this gap as ‘an empty space left for the viewer to fall into … [resulting in] no limit to prevent the viewer from being pulled right in and being pushed out again.’ (Quoted in Adams, p.84.)” (