Friday, January 16, 2009

Lost in the Orchard

The current installation by Ilya and Emilia Kabakov at Sprovieri Progetti exists somewhere between fiction and fact, the Kabakov’s installations always give the impression of having taking the real interiors of spaces and transposed them accurately into the gallery space. This experience of viewing a ‘documentation’ of a real space is, however, wholly inaccurate as the room you see before you is in essence an unreal spectacle. In the Kabakov’s imaginings the room entitled “I Sleep in the Orchard” bears all the realities of the interior of a patients room in an imaginary mental institute, supposedly the patients treatment involves the creation of their room as part of the clinical process. Within the almost cell like confines colours and objects are placed to allow the patient to realise their room as project which enables them to comprehend and accommodate the causes and manifestations of their mental illness.

Alongside the installation on the adjacent wall in Sprovieri Progetti’s gallery space is the fictional account of the patient, Eliazarova, in the text she tells of her past and the story of her removal from the countryside to a cramped and unsettling communal apartment. This disturbing urban environment finally pushes the fictional Eliazorova to attempt suicide and ultimately results in her hospitalisation and the manifestation of her room we see before us. The room contains eight pot plants that sit at the front of the room side by side almost like a barrier and beyond is a bed with its institutionalised furniture of metal frame and white sheets with dull grey woollen blankets. On green and grey walls sits a white canvas with green painted lines and blobs reminiscent of an abstracted landscape. A low wattage bulb hangs in the centre of the room creating an underlit, gloomy, dispiriting and depressing atmosphere. This stark interior and the story that creates it leaves the viewer with a sense of unresolved tension, we reflect on the outcome of this story and the gloomy interior and ultimately the fictional nature of the experience only serves to lower and diminish the mood of the viewer. We see neither hope for Eliazarova and only cursory comprehension of her illness through the realisation of her room.

One could extrapolate this experience and story to the life and work of an artist, taking the disturbed and disturbing elements of the perhaps lonely and isolated practice of an artist and their ideas and the manifestation of their visions in the ‘real’ world. Commissioned, curated, mediated and delivered from the isolation of the artists thoughts into material reality and finally into the full view of the public the inner thoughts and ideas are there to be reflected on, deciphered or just picked over by the prying eyes of the outside world. In the final reckoning perhaps the Kabakov’s suggest that no matter how free we are to place our interpretations in the real world as artists and viewers the realisations and comprehension of these thoughts and ideas can never be fully determined or understood.

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