Come Up To My Room 2009
For six successful years, Come Up To My Room has attracted hundred of visitors to the historic Gladstone Hotel to see unique exhibits by emerging and established Canadian designers. Whatever discipline or background they have, these artists are given free range to implement their creative concepts and transform the hotel's rooms and public spaces.
I had the opportunity to speak with some of the designers themselves, but I also enlisted the help of two individuals from the CUTMR's curatorial collective, Caroline Shaheed and Jeremy Vandermejl, to help me better understand some of the eleven rooms and fourteen public installations.
First stop was Room 202, home of Studio Junction. Known for using wood in their practice, it's not surprising that they've completely transformed a small room with the material. Upon entering the room, what you'll notice is the smell. Horizontal cider panels wrap the walls and ceiling, along with other woods such as Douglas fir and pine, providing the captivating aroma. Behind the divided wall, the panels that wrap the walls form a bench which makes you feel like you're in sauna. I was equally impressed by light installations, so be sure to look up.
When I entered Room 204 I felt like this was in someone's contemporary living room. Two re-upholstered chairs flank a graphic carpet while overhead hang delicate paper origami-style lamps. In this MADE presentation, Eric Mathew's printmaking and Andrew Ooi's origami have been brought together - creating lighting that represents one another's craft. Aside from the hanging fixtures are table lamps, which, according to Mathew, have the "best knobs in the world". Laughing at that statement, I thought they were joking but tested their claim. For something so small and barely noticeable in my everyday life, the knobs did feel sleek and comfortable, and made a distinct 'click', a satisfying sound of completeness. Yes, it was indeed the best knob in the world, I ascertained.
Sometimes it feels like we live in a cold, hard world so it's nice to see that some artists put a little love back into it. Room 205 is called In My Heart by Matt Carr and Joyce Lo. The words 'Can't Get' and 'Enough' hang in lights on opposite walls.. but where was the love? I took one of the monocles hanging from the ceiling and saw the lights have transformed into hearts. How cute, I exclaimed. When I left the room, my eyes were hurting from squinting too much but it was all well worth it.
I'll admit it, I had to stop myself from running up and hugging the plush objects. In Room 206, Andrew MacDonald's use of abstract art has created figures that almost resemble humans, animals and familiar objects. These comforting knitted sculptures, all done by MacDonald, look like, as my guide Jeremy puts it, "sentinels from Easter Island". MacDonald told me that his figures are much larger, in much bigger rooms, so these little figures are a glimpse into his textured world.
Room 207, entitled Suspect, really gives you that impression when you enter it. Dimly lit, I felt my body cower, feeling the awareness of being watched. Ceramic flashlights hang from the ceiling above a table that can be separated and put back together with hinges, an object that's not what it seems to be.
When I entered Room 208, I realized that many special and whimsical characters exist in Derrick Hodgson's mind. The illustrator-artist has made this room very welcoming and children-friendly. I was persuaded by my guide Caroline to play around with the giant puzzles on the wall. From the building blocks in the corner, to the moving mobile on the ceiling, to the giant box in the middle of the room, everything was interactive and playful.
Attracted to the flickering light of Room 209, I entered this dark-lit space assuming a movie was playing. What I didn't realize was that a chair was being projected, swirling on its axis. "Strange", I thought, while soft jazz is played in the background. According to Matt Nye and Bruno Brillio, the chair is an everyday object that is also an identity piece and it holds a bit of history to their installation. According to them, the swirling chair can accompany any type of music, from jazz, to blues, and even electronic.
If you love the Brothers Grimm's story 'The Juniper Tree' then you will instantly feel a connection to Room 210. I've never read the tale but each of the artists created their own interpretations of the story. Works include wall art that resembles a pop-up book, to sculptured pieces of acrylic and paper.
Very often, we forget that art has a sense of humour. Pastel-coloured ice cream cones can be found at various spots in Room 211, as well as a multi-coloured hot air balloon. It created a happy, comfortable space.
Room 212 is home to the The Souvenir Shop and could be a huge crowd-pleaser this year. Motherbrand presents this installation, Penny Smash, which feels like a 19th century carnival setup. The viewer takes one of the hundreds of pennies scattered across the floor and puts it into the penny presser. I inserted two dollars and cranked the lever to reveal a pressed design from Douglas Coupland. You can also buy printed designs from Marian Bantjes, Burton Kramer and Paul Butler and funds go directly to Sketch.ca, an organization that helps bring art to street youths.
Jeremy Hatch uses masculine, heavy machinery objects to draw the visitor inside Room 214. I felt a little trepidation when I saw how large and heavy these pieces were, but I soon realized that they were made of bone china and were extremely delicate. I couldn't help but carefully get closer to them.
As I mentioned, along with each of the rooms, there are fourteen public installations. All of them are just as interactive and visually appealing yet I had to narrow it down to five for review here.
It seemed that summer greeted me when I walked through the second floor doors. The Living Wall is an entire wall of plants designed by Adam Harris and Parimal Gosai. Harris explained to me that plastic bags were fused together to make planters and parts of former television aerial towers provided the height of the installation. The plants' lush, vibrant green colour is a welcoming sight to our dreary sun-deprived winter days.
If the idea of hearing bad predictions from a fortune teller scares you, don't worry, Grace Yang has had her fair share of them. Using humour and her own personal experience, she has created light boxes with these "predictions" that have yet to live up to their realizations.
Comprised of six individual artists' take on the creation of a chair, the Chair Project will show you these interpretations scattered across the main and second floors. Some are cute humorous: one looks like it can be transformed from an art display piece to a toilet (aptly named White Relief Chair) and another that when taken apart spells out the words 'THIS IS A CHAIR'.
Collaborating with Commissaires and Ministry of the Interior, one of the big names exhibiting at this event was Kwangho Lee. While I unfortunately missed speaking with him by a few minutes, I did take a good hard look at his knitted wire creations. These fluid-like hanging lamps uses the memories of his past and materials of our present. According to his bio, he crafts all of them by hand. His exquisite pieces will on display in the ballroom, providing a nice decor piece for the LoveDESIGN party on Saturday.
In the cafe, an interactive video game is set up. I couldn't test it out as it was still being built, but when I spoke to one of its collaborators, Pietro Gagliano, he described it as a game "with no conventional controls, switches or dials." He explained that it uses multi-touch applications where you can use your fingers to manipulate photos and play other games". Peter Wehrspann also collaborated. Sounds like a great ice breaker game for Saturday's party.
There is no question Come Up To My Room has a lot to offer in the way of art and design this year. The event's already started, so hop on the streetcar and check it out this weekend.
Come Up To My Room is open to the public on Friday February 6th, from 12-8pm, Saturday February 7th from 12-10pm and Sunday February 8th, 12-5pm. Admission is $8. LoveDesign Party is held in the ballroom is on Saturday February 7th, at 10pm, free admission.
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