Since 2004 the rooms at the Gladstone Hotel have played host to some of Canada’s leading artists in alternative design. Every year for a few days three floors of the Gladstone give up their space and are transformed into a place that engages our sense, our memories, and our perceptions of reality. Each room is given to an artist and they create a site-specific, immersive installation that stimulates the imagination and encourages discussion. For the 13th edition of Come Up to My Room (CUTMR) Ryerson’s School of Image Arts and the School of Interior Design both had installations that captured and filled the room.
Ryerson Artspace is a student and faculty run gallery within the Gladstone Hotel that is curated and programmed by the School of Image Arts. Artspace has been a venue for contemporary Canadian film, photography, and digital arts for the last 24 years and this year the students created a ripple. As part of CUTMR the students at Artspace created an installation that looked at the notion of how we can achieve more together than alone, that we all create a ripple effect with our actions. The installation itself is a giant collective instrument that participants control with the tug of a light bulb, or raindrop, hanging from the ceiling. The darkened gallery was filled with light bulbs hanging down from the ceiling each one tied to its own individual sound, like the keys of a piano. Except this piano had many players who could work together to create a melody or let unique sounds morph into their own chaotic composition. What began as a prototype for the Digital Tools class as part of the Architectural Science program, Ripple, has become a real installation that encourages movement of the whole body and creates a collective harmony out of different lights, sounds, and movements.
I came across Ripple late in the evening, it was actually as I was leaving the Love Design Party. I knew that it was showing but I couldn’t seem to find it and with all the other rooms to see I had a lot to go through (getting trapped in a line up for the Ferris Bueller room didn’t help). However, once I did find Ripple I realized how happy I was not to miss it. It was a very strange experience, flowing through the teardrops as brand new melodies and sounds constantly reverberate throughout the gallery and your body. With only the light from the teardrops I managed to make my way through the gallery, to pull on each one and listen for my own sound in the sea of music. I understood what the artists were portraying, how each of us has an effect, we can each add to the ripple by throwing our rock in the pond. However, what I also found was that sometimes our effect gets lost; the constant flow might wash out our ripple. We sometimes have to stop and listen, make sure that what we are doing is actually having the effect we want it to. If we can’t hear ourselves maybe we need to change our tune, take a different approach to have the effect we are after.
The School of Interior Design also had an installation, which was one of the first rooms I stumbled upon. Partnered with UUfie, an architecture and design practice based in Toronto, Catherine Farrell and Nisha Sewell of Ryerson created Breath, along with Katherine Porter from the Rhode Island School of Design. This installation explored the ideas of deception and limitlessness in its arrangement of tactile space. This installation was supposed to create a dialogue about making and designing, like time flowing in space, an instance of a breath. I think this project was a little over-my-head but the implementation worked which can be hard to manage in instances like these. Often artistic endeavors sound and look great on paper or in your mind, but creation is a difficult feat.
With over 20 artists showing and creating for CUTMR this year there is a lot to discuss, with that being said here are a few more rooms that caught my eye. Untitled (Idolization Space) looked at our obsession with visuals, which has been exacerbated by the Internet, allowing for little consideration for meaning over the immediacy of aesthetics. We crave stimulation and turn to social media for inspiration that provides an unending stream of imagery that has been removed from the text needed to interpret its meaning. The artist feels that since we are in a constant state of rapid input we reach an over-stimulation point that results in distraction and hyperactivity.
Life Moves Fast is a replication of Ferris Bueller’s bedroom from the film Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. The artists worked to replicate every detail from the film, the posters on the wall, the records on the bookshelf, and even the data on his computer screen, which was programmed to change the same way it did in the film. The artists loaned materials from museums and private individuals who still had some of the articles that appeared in this young man’s bedroom thirty years ago. This room immersed you into a familiar space that was at the same time foreign, it was distant in time and space but you could touch, feel, and hear the room and its fictional inhabitant. I think everyone relates to the title, life does move fast. The possessions in that room are relics of a time gone by just as this MacBook and I will be soon enough.
While I was walking between these rooms I got the sense that art and its meaning go unnoticed. Certainly not everyone was there to view these rooms for what they were, to understand what the artist wanted to say. It disappoints me because art can have so much power if you let it, to initiate change and shock your core values. But if you just walk by you are not allowing that art to inhabit your mind for a small period of time, to push you into a new room in your brain. Whatever the medium, art is something we cannot do without. Imagine not having any music, or not being able to tap your heels around your little apartment, or not being able to move and shape colour into new forms. Art is so immersed in our lives we don’t notice it; the clothes we wear, the buildings we live in, the music that constantly fills our background, and so many more ways. Take a minute to notice the art around you; even something with function is art. Don’t just walk on by.