Art “…like morality, (it) consists of drawing the line somewhere”, G. K. Chesterton.
Reflections, refractions, repose – Student Lodging – the installation
Student lodging can seem like the ultimate unmade bed, and evoke strong responses by virtue of its laissez faire approach to everyday life. But that is its attraction – the power inherent in the image. It juxtaposes the desire to ignore with the horror of seeing – albeit accidentally. It is natural, organic. It is visceral. It is based on the immediate, the contradictory, a melding of the conscious with the unconscious, suggesting the possibilities and potentialities of its creator(s).
The result is an incredibly imaginative utilisation of everyday items. Items specifically chosen to highlight the charged environment in which they live and an expression of life lived on the fringe and on a budget. From your first step inside the hallway, to your circumnavigation of mop heads, bin lids and extraneous street signs in the back yard on departure, every cubic inch beckons, unfolds and informs. One visit is just not enough simply because highlights are hard to pick from such masterful crafting of chaos. Full immersion is vital to appreciate the whole experience and this can only be achieved through a series of visits. The viewer must commit themselves, totally and without reservation otherwise questions such as ‘Did I just see what I think I saw? Did that bag move? Is that even possible? Why?’ will forever remain unanswered. Like, dislike, accept, reject – it’s your choice – but you will question and analyse despite your best effort not to. Among the highlights……
‘Haven’t seen him for a week’ – Dirty sheets/beercans/ashtrays/dead insects/animal carcasses/marine life – anything goes and in some cases, nothing is spared.
‘Your turn’ – cigarette butts impaled on cocktail sticks, painted with tiny faces – adorning the tops of old milk cartons – life meets death – and smiles…
‘Good for the brain’ – Prawn shells spoon along sink/cooker and worktop – all paying homage to a large tuna head in a strategically placed basin (very short lived and quite smelly installation in the later stages – but worth the viewing)
‘RB & C’ – Empty toilet rolls neatly cut and covering every bannister of a stairwell. A felt tip pen provided for notes, dedications and reminesences from stairwell users.
‘Never again’ – Empty rolls 2 – tile/streak/stain and mould. All combine to express the visceral reality of an attempt to cleanse, to purify and restore the body corporeal – at the expense of all else..
… and further down the hall – the void aka the hotpress – empty – untraversed and unexplored. This installation is supported by audio, soft scratchings, barely audible squeaks, a polarisation of neglect, destain and the transferral of responsibility denied by all. If you experience one of these installations, all else pales..Dead cows (standard in any butcher shop window until health regulations became more stringent), are passe. Dead butterflies, equally so (check your windowsill in Autumn for them, if you prefer bluebottles – check attic in winter). Dead sharks – absolutely banal in comparison to six fish fingers installed in the salad compartment of a fridge for nine weeks – menthol tissues recommended throughout viewing.
A large proportion of these installations inspire healthy competition among and between students. This occasionally results in refreshingly unique collaborations. At one of these installations I was particularly drawn to a faux Christmas tree decorated with toilet paper, bottle caps, a rolling pin and foil from takeaways, carefully manipulated and hung. To me they seemed a harmonious combination of belief, tradition and reality tinged with a pang of post Christmas regret. The party’s over – it left by the back door and got lost in the shed.
These works, though intriguing, rarely reach their full potential, purely through lack of funding. Grants are insufficient for students to do little more than exist. Others barely get by on part time employment. For the vast majority, parents are not an option – their minimalist lifestyle is unable to sustain – anything.
A large proportion of these students are absorbed into multinational companies on completion of their degrees – wouldn’t it be nice if these companies supported them more during their academic and artistic development?<
Most installations are seasonal. Access is rarely problematic if based on some form of relationship with a student or students (ie parent, brother, sisters, girlfriend/boyfriend etc). A generous donation may allow the uninitiated entry. The optimum time to visit is eight weeks after college has started as by that time all household rosters have been forgotten and resolutions abandoned.