TCA’s Design Week Diary, part 3: 2010 Come Up To My Room
Those of you who read our coverage of Radiant Dark and IDS know the drill: Check out some lovely photos from photographer Danijela Pruginic (clicking here for more images & clicking on the images for artist info), and below you’ll find a review of the show from writer Adam Gorley. We’d love to hear your feedback on these posts – whether you agree with Adam’s take on the events (or not!), whether there were any pieces that we didn’t get to showcase that deserve recognition, what some of your favourite pieces are, and so on.
Come Up To My Room is the most conceptual of the TIDF events that I attended this year, and also the most remarkable. If you don’t know what CUTMR is, the organizers invite artists to create installations in the second floor rooms and hallways at the Gladstone Hotel. The results are always intriguing and there are always a couple of installations that look and feel really great; in which the artists create great experiences. The artists have to work within a couple of significant limitations; for example, the rooms are small and oddly shaped, and the walls must remain white. I think the best pieces take full advantage of the room’s conditions, including its shape and its lighting.
Maybe because the installations are enclosed; separate from reality; they often have the feeling of fantasy. I guess in a sense that’s always the artist’s intention: to create the feeling of something that’s not real or hyper-real. It helps, too, that at CUTMR the viewers get to move from room to room and fantasy to fantasy, becoming more and more disoriented as the place gets busier and busier. You just need a fussy rabbit to lead you around and you’d feel perfectly lost in Wonderland.
Naomi Yasui, Jennifer Sciarrino, and Jacob Whibley arranged strange and fantastical elements around their room, Slap Dash Depository: wood blocks with oddly painted cutouts on top of a shelf made of wooden crates and paperbacks; ceramic copies of old-fashioned vessels; more paperback books embedded between fibreglass insulation in an unfinished wall; a pillar of sprouting chia climbing to a hanging ladder, or vice versa, beside a boarded-up window with light shining dully through, evoking a warm sunset ;very different from the actual weather! They were all neat elements, giving a sense of strange nostalgia; but the room didn’t seem to hold together especially well. I felt it would be interesting to see a larger installation with more of these odd bits, or maybe just more of these odd bits crammed into the same space. Anyway, it was a good start to the show.
Lisa Keophila, Jon Margono, Fiona Lim Tung, and Kristen Lim Tung created a canopy of exotic paper flowers and plants that diffused the bright white lights and induced an instant calm. Also hanging among the whitery were ceramic crystalline structures, adding a further fantastical and futuristic feel to the experience. Beneath the canopy, in an alcove, were a puffy white mattress and pillows, where the artists invited my companions to sit (they did). Despite its stark whiteness, the room evoked a strong feeling of being surrounded by tropical plant life. I imagined humidity and heat, leaves dripping; but it was quiet, too, very unlike the buzzing life of a jungle or tropical forest. The bed added a dreamy quality, like you might wake up in a soft white bed surrounded by strange white vegetation and light, but you might not think twice about it.
Julia Hepburn created a fantastical tableau of the rich dream life of a forest bird in Can you Remember My Dream?. The dark room featured a small bed with a full nest of twigs around its base and a tall canopy of branches overhead. Hanging from the branches were several lanterns each displaying a morbid dream diorama, and providing the only light in the room. The bird lay asleep and breathing under the covers of the bed. The odd and somewhat jarring dream scenes contrasted with the peacefulness of the sleeping bird to create a strange feeling. Of course, the bird sleeping in a bed combined with the breathing motion under the covers is strange enough!
Maggie Greyson, Christine Lieu, and Phoebe Lo installed an “Archival Library of Found Treasures” in their room, Chronicles of Our Time. They invited visitors to exchange something of their own for something in the “archive”, or to tell the story of something lost in the hope that another visitor might offer a clue to its whereabouts. The playful take on memories and storytelling was arranged like a simple library with long shelves of rough planks mounted from floor to ceiling lined with mason jars each housing an object and an identifying tag. A bespectacled archivist sat at an old wooden desk (with a very modern computer) to record the transactions. I guess questions of nostalgia are never far from the surface in design and art. We’re always playing off of something from the past. In this case, semi-anonymous object-story-memories are the focus of the art, but in a very ephemeral way. They become commodities with exchange value, and they float in and out of the archive, like they would in the mind of a person or community. I have a rough theory about the equivalency of real world objects and individual memories, and I appreciate how this installation seems to get at the idea.
There was lots more to see: the Work/Party collective gathered an impressive collection of objects to create an exhibition of the remains of a crashed spacecraft; including part of the craft itself; Jennifer Davis and Jamie Phelan turned their room into a hallway of tennis balls that gave off an intense light and smell; Noelle Hamlyn created a breathing lace experience; Jamie Webster and Berkeley Poole magnified their room to the molecular level to show germs attacking an organism; with balloons in stark black light; Richard Unterthiner and Paolo Ferrari installed a shrinking mirrored walkway into a womb-like bedroom with words and voices. And all of it was pretty neat and creative.
A great thing about Come Up To My Room is that the viewer is invited to experience the installations, to touch them and interact with them, and so the pieces are never pretentious and usually fun, even when they’re disconcerting or strange.
And that was TIDF.
If you were at CUTMR, let me know which rooms you liked best!