Works    2005 Room: Scheme 1 - Bedroom

An essay by Irene Crusca

As certain places and spaces have historically declined in importance, others have replaced them. The demise of public space has been replaced by a focus and even fetishisation of private space. Notwithstanding the greater possibilities of nomadism in the ‘borderless’ and interconnected global village, identity continues to be largely determined by the places and spaces we inhabit. There has, however, been a shift in the significance of borders: as national borders have diminished in importance other more immediate borders have risen to greater prominence. Everyday lives are organised, even determined by the walls that surround us and the spaces we inhabit.

This exhibition is the first of a series exploring the aesthetics of domestic space. Room: A Series of Schemes is the product of numerous discussions by artists Liliana Barbieri, Susan Knight, Sarina Lirosi, and Wilma Tabacco. As their collaboration has thickened, the artists have surrendered their individual ideas to a collective and ongoing process of discovery. Such dialogue manifests in the first exhibition of the series - Bedroom.

The bedroom is the space of intimacy as opposed to the corridor as space of movement, bathroom as place of bodily function and living room as space of sociality. Historically, the bedroom was the place of conception - of birth and also of death. Today the bedroom continues to be identified as site of dreams and desires, of concealed sexual relationships, of adolescents’ personal space and as a site of crime - in particular, crimes of passion.  Of all the rooms of a house the bedroom may be interpreted as “the space of secrets… a topography of concealment and investigation.” (1)

Such aspects suggest that the highly image-conscious and utopian domestic spaces we inhabit are theatrical sets for a vast array of narratives and dramas. The displacement inherent in the works in this exhibition also suggests the disorder of life - a disorder that cannot fully be contained or disguised by the framework of architecture. Space has not been limited solely to domestic, architectural or abstract space, but has operated on multiple and interconnected levels. In this exhibition, space is experienced as the space of dialogue frequently occurring in the studio setting, as domestic space - the motivating subject matter, and as the 'real' space of the art gallery.

An abject puff of flesh-coloured satin is compressed into a small glass container, a hardly recognisable dowry box has been gutted of its walls and reduced to its bare bones’ framework, anonymous photographs from a discarded family album have been stripped of their context and removed from their original and unknown referent. Confronted by this array of isolated and displaced fragments, the viewer is moved to investigate the relationship between them, and the extent to which these found objects are being subjected to spatial and temporal displacements. This loosely linked collection of found-objects exists in relationship to each other through the context that surrounds them - that of the whitewashed gallery wall – the underwritten aesthetic of much 20th Century art. Whilst this gallery space provides a context and framework for these works, it too is subjected to spatial intervention. The trace of another space is glimpsed through intermittent hints of picture frames glowing on a painted bedroom façade.

The bedroom is the most private space within the debated divisions of private and public space created during the rise of the 19th century bourgeoisie, in a period when the divisions between work and leisure were cemented. In this exhibition the construction and transitory nature of this representation of domestic space is highlighted throughout the mise-en-scène. Bedroom provokes questions - are our lives compartmentalised, as are our lived spaces? Do those lived spaces further reinforce the sense of compartmentalization? Borders are problematised between past and present and private and public in the temporally confused photographs from the family album, between suggested body parts and container, and between exterior space and interior dowry box. The boundaries between the earlier Platonic model of space as container and the recent understanding of the experience of space as fluid and inseparable from the body are blurred, as displacement becomes a subtle collaborative poetry.

The fixed boundaries of architectural spaces have been challenged by the artists’ awareness of the broader philosophical perspective of space, which moves beyond the space of architecture, but cannot be separated from it.  At the same time, the creative blurring of spatial boundaries throughout the mise-en-scène provides greater freedom than a single theory or philosophy can ever permit.  This is where art and contradiction reign supreme, for even when the gallery wall is stripped of its function, the after-glow of faded picture frames persists in maintaining a presence within this genteel art of displacement.

[1] Mulvey, L., ‘Pandora: Topographies of the Mask and Curiosity’ in Colomina, B., (ed.) Sexuality and Space, New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1992, p.65

Between the Sheets by

Between the Sheets  2005

Between the Sheets by

Between the Sheets  2005

Between the Sheets by

Between the Sheets  2005

Between the Sheets by

Between the Sheets  2005

Between the Sheets by

Between the Sheets  2005

Between the Sheets by

Between the Sheets  2005

Between the Sheets, installation view by

Between the Sheets, installation view  2005

Between the Sheets, installation view by

Between the Sheets, installation view  2005