All Content © Copyright 2022 Erika Ritzel
Ghosts in Empty Classrooms (2004-2006)
Institutions need structure to function and to regulate the way people use space, be it hospitals, universities, or libraries. There is always formal element to these structures. The spaces themselves are very organized: chairs and tables are placed in neat rows, chalkboards are always cleaned, and the floors are always vacuumed. What happens when living, untidy, chaotic, human beings interact with these spaces? Humans by nature need to make a space their own. But what if the environment is already considered a public space? In leaving their mark on a structure, they leave a trace of themselves. The way people live and their own set of needs transforms the formal intentions of the institution.
I began to track this combination of human presence and institutional intent in university classrooms. It soon became apparent that even though the classrooms were empty, there were traces of the people that had just left. The institutions themselves were sterile, but the objects within had their own personality because of human intervention. This contradiction between sterility and chaos dramatizes the scene. In gaining access to the universities, I looked for empty classrooms and human aspects left with the space. By focusing on the human elements, I am telling about the characteristics of occasional inhabitants of the space.