I recently sold my house and was frequently subjected to the unwanted state of being 'open for inspection.' I found myself cringing during these frequent periods of temporary 'exile' as I mentally pictured the potential buyers' invasion of my bedroom - their mechanical trample through the physical terrain and memories of my innermost 'space of secrets.'

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 The demise of public space has been replaced by a focus and even fetishisation of private space.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, occurred a shift in the significance of borders for 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 seen as the space of movement, the bathroom as place of bodily function and the 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 a site of dreams and desires, of concealed sexual relationships, adolescents' personal space, as major 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."

Such aspects are highlighted in order to 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 to these works also suggests a dimension of disorder to life, which cannot fully be contained or disguised by the order of architecture. Space however 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. All these dimensions of space have provided the content and context for this exhibition.

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 far 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 these spatial and temporal displacements. A telling clue as to how this loosely linked collection of found-objects exists in an indispensable relationship to each other is the context that surrounds them - that of the whitewashed gallery wall - the underwritten aesthetic of much 20th Century art. A spatial intervention occurs as 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 and this is evident through the entire mise-en-scène. The fixed boundaries of architectural spaces are challenged by the broader philosophical perspective of space, which moves beyond the space of architecture, but cannot be separated from it. In reaction to the older Enlightenment understanding of space and subjectivity as fixed, contemporary space and subjectivity is viewed as process. Through this latter theoretical model for understanding space the rigid boundaries between private and public and between inside and outside are challenged by the fluidity of porous borders which provides further opportunity for these artists to consider another layer to this theatre of displacement between bedroom and gallery space. The borders between past and present and private and public in the temporally confused photographs from the family album, between body parts and container, and between exterior space and interior dowry box are problematised.

In this exhibition the past is distorted yet hauntingly present. An aestheticisation of the past is present through hints, fragments of hints and the residue of bits and pieces. Bedroom provokes questions - are our lives compartmentalised, as are our lived spaces? Do those lived spaces further reinforce the sense of compartmentalisation? Displacement becomes a subtle collaborative poetry, yet not without its individual quirks and aspirations.

A contemporary model of space as inseparable from the body is contrasted to ancient Platonic reflections of space as container. The boundaries between the earlier and more recent understanding of the experience of space are therefore blurred, thus creatively providing greater freedom than a single theory or philosophy can ever permit. This is where art and contradiction reigns supreme, for even when the gallery wall is stripped of its function, the after-glow of faded picture frames persist in maintaining a presence within this genteel art of displacement.

 

Irene Crusca