What is it?
A simple piece of domestic plumbing.
Is it handmade?
In the 1980s Gober began producing porcelain sinks and pewter drains that were somewhere between being handcrafted and industrially produced. Though the pewter drain is indistinguishable from the billions of mass-produced objects used all over the world, the artist wants us to consider it in isolation, as part of a meditation on domesticity and broader socio-political themes.
Why did he make it?
By transforming the most mundane parts of our environment, we are compelled to regard the world with a new-found interest and attention. This work is emphatically not a readymade, and in its meticulous handmade reimagining, the drain is a new order for sculpture, possessing its own formal and familiar particularities.
What is the idea behind the work?
The work refers to our domestic obsession with hygiene and evokes the intimate bodily process of cleansing. Through the drain flows waste and dirt, simulating the eliminatory functions of the human digestive system. The piece is a poignant response to the AIDS pandemic sweeping the gay community in New York in the 1980s—just as the immune system is unable to flush out the HIV virus from the human body, so the drain, isolated from faucets and the flow of clean water, is unable to fulfil its purpose. As Gober states: “What do you do when you stand in front of a sink? You clean yourself. I seemed to be obsessed with making objects that embodied that broken promise.”
How was Gober affected by the pandemic?
Gober was deeply affected by the deaths within his circle of friends—“It seemed that every other day someone I knew or someone that a friend of mine knew was getting severely sick, really fast and most of them were gay men. Young men were dying all around me from causes unknown and the world seemed to be either in denial or revulsion.” The shocked manner with which the pandemic was greeted by the general public, the suspicion that it had something to do with issues of hygiene, is bleakly evoked by Gober’s work. Robbed of its hardware and its original function, the drain becomes inexplicable and alien, just as AIDS was at the time.
What did it go for at auction?
In 2014, edition 6 from 8 plus two artist’s proofs sold at Christie’s New York for $293,000.