In grade-school, the bathroom was a dramatic place. Here you separated men from women and adults from children. Bathroom stalls are still scrawled with the beginning lawlessness of young minds. The memories of your grade-school hallways are warped and twisted, visually and mentally. They seem to close in upon you, the stairways smaller; more dark and mysterious than memory had claimed them to be. Lights flicker in places where they shouldn’t be and invading posters crawl along the walls.
Amidst that reflection we can move on towards considering Andrew Thompson’s installation at The Burton Theatre. One of the most important themes that artists address is our relationships to our environment. Molding our surroundings and altering our perception and awareness of simple spaces, these artists allow their audience to experience a common space (say a bathroom or a stairwell) in a uniquely memorable way. “From room to room” is no different. Burton Theatre is located on the corner of Peterboro and Cass Ave. in a re-distributed grade-school. These hallways and classrooms now house artists’ studios and the Burton Theatre itself. The House of Raw, a curatorial project undertaken by Detroit artist Cristin Richard, hosts artists’ installations, and during opening receptions shows corresponding films in the theater. According to Richard, “Andrew chose to screen “The Hole” because of the relationship between the man inhabiting an apartment above a woman’s. Basically, Andy was trying to connect the space between the men’s room and the ladies room.”
The current exhibition by Andrew Thompson is physically comprised of strips of plastic bags tied together tightly and woven into the environment. Its beginning, as it were, is in the basement men’s restroom where they coat the walls and ceilings like spiderwebs. It trails down the narrow hallway, weaving in and out of locker handles and doors. It floats on up the stairway, spinning and turning up two flights of stairs above the audience. Criss-crossing white/red/blue lines lead the audience into a women’s restroom. Here the grand finale, or nest egg, of a water bottle chandelier awaits. It hangs half over the top of the stalls, intruding on the sacred space, patiently awaiting those who’d enter the room.
The Detroiter also had an e-mail interview with the artist, and asked him a few questions regarding his installation.
Detroiter: How long did you work on the installation?
Andrew: I’ve been thinking about the piece ever since I was invited by Cristin Richard back in the Fall. The physical installation took about 2 weeks time, working whenever the Burton Theatre was open, mostly weekend nights.
D: Did you have any help?
A: Lindy Shewbridge was my assistant for most of the time I was installing, also I received a lot of help from my studio mate Scotty Wagner and his girlfriend Amanda Luci.
D: What is your belief about the use of materials (i know that you get your material from things thrown away, and that’s because you don’t like to introduce/use new materials, rather to use what already exists, is this correct?)
A:There are a number of reasons I’m interested in working with the plastic bags and bottles. Most obvious is that I am working with used materials, so I think of the artwork as a second life, or more cynically as a lay-over, for the materials before they are recycled or discarded again. I also am attracted to these materials because they are created to be containers for consumable goods, and I like to think of whatever media I work in as a container for my aesthetics thoughts.
D: What does it mean to you?
A: The meaning of the piece can be interpreted a number of ways, how I think about the installation is that it functions as a collaboration between myself and the building. The plastic bags functions as lines in space that essentially connect-the-dots between all of the peculiar spaces and utilities that are exposed throughout the building.
D: Were you satisfied with the result, and the showing of people?
A: As with all installation projects, you never can guess accurately how the piece is going to manifest when compared to the vision the artist might have in their head. Two days before the opening I had mixed feelings about the piece, but then I managed to resolve a few issues and ended up being satisfied with the final outcome. I am very thankful to all of the people who came out to see the show on a snowy weeknight.
“From Room to Room” will be up through February 26th