Tomorrow is the final day of Adrienne Spier’s Mercer Union exhibition Three Bedroom Flat. Toronto-based artist and Mercer Union intern Laura Wickett recently interviewed Adrienne about her work, in which she has deconstructed wooden furniture and turned the remnants into a series of densely layered wooden cubes.
Laura Wickett: Previous projects of yours such as Unwanted, Broken and Useless and Waiting Room have featured interactive components in which the viewer participates in the physical transformation of discarded furniture, often with humorous results. Three Bedroom Flat is more static, and has a quietness that makes me feel as though I am looking at furniture tombstones. What was your aim in creating a work that is literally “heavier” than other ones?
Adrienne Spier: Three Bedroom Flat has implied movement and to me it also has humour. To condense all these valuable, big, sturdy objects into simple boxes that can easily be toppled is satisfying. Part of my aim was to clean up my studio. I will now be able to store the pieces without taking up so much space.
LW: The violent act of cutting apart pieces of domestic furniture which we interact with so intimately, and the reference to suburban-style consumption calls to mind Gordon Matta-Clark’s Splitting. The dense layering of materials in Three Bedroom Flat and the spatial organization of the cubes in the gallery evoke Matta-Clark’s Four Corners, which configures the cut-away rooftop corners of a house on the gallery floor so that the viewer can stand inside them. Both of you seem to be assisting the natural entropic process. Are you concerned with the idea of cultural entropy as well?
AS: I like the idea of helping destruction along (it is so close to creation). Sometimes I think my work is an exaggeration of destruction. A ridiculous, dramatic, farcical display of destruction. In terms of cultural entropy, I do think about how our culture can’t maintain its current state (consumption, global warming etc…) and how powerless I feel about that.
LW: By re-configuring furniture that has been abandoned based on its obsolete design but that would otherwise serve a functional purpose, are you suggesting that style is now an arbiter of functionality? In 2008, does form follow function or vice versa?
AS: I do think the rate at which objects like furniture and appliances are tossed out is ridiculous and almost farcical. You could say that the ideal of the Bauhaus to create good design for the masses has been reached by Ikea. This “good design” is often so inexpensive and cheaply made that it is replaced quickly. I am addicted to the Craigslist furniture section (artistic research) and I am in Berlin at the moment. Craigslist furniture postings here are almost exclusively Ikea items posted by foreigners who are moving away (again). If people are always moving or expecting to move they will not invest in long-lasting items. One of my favourite visual spaces is other people’s homes. When you see a person’s home it is a marvel of cultural and personal history. What happens when all personal affects come from Ikea no matter where you are in the world? Perhaps this is related to cultural entropy?
LW: In what direction are you taking your practice of “furniture archaeology” as it represents our patterns of taste and consumption? Are you considering pushing the relevance these concerns have on a more global level?
AS: I don’t believe artwork is powerful when it is about a specific political idea or agenda. I am not sure what direction I will be going in next. The garbage will tell me. I have thought of making a found-food banquet. The taboo around finding food in the garbage interests me. I love the documentary “The Gleaners and I” by Agnès Varda. It is about people who find food.
LW: What’s the best abandoned furniture find you’ve made?
AS: I can only narrow this down to my best two finds (see below). A piano bench and an antique dresser. I found both of these pieces on the same day when I was visiting my old neighbourhood in Toronto (I also have found a cedar chest, two different sets of dining room chairs, a box full of knick-knacks with $10 in change, and a handmade rug on that same street). Montreal, where I now live, is not so generous. I almost never find good street refuse because people are so quick to take it.
LW: When you hit a dumpster jackpot, is it thrilling or heartbreaking to see so much needless waste?
AS: It is thrilling. I know I live in a paradox where I am thrilled to find and use the refuse of a society whose wasteful ways I disapprove of. Perhaps I would not be an artist if our society was not so wasteful.
LW: And finally, do you ever shop or make art at IKEA?
AS: I have a love-hate relationship with Ikea. When I go I almost feel sick because I am so overwhelmed with the desire to buy and at the same time repelled by the conspicuous consumption (I do have the catalogue in my bathroom). I have never made Ikea Art but have always admired the ikea coffin called DIY that was made by Joe Scanlan.