Home is where the art is with “The Apartment Exhibition”
Five local creative types are putting space to good use. Curated by Staci Bu Shea, “The Apartment Exhibition” features individual and collaborative work by Thony Aiuppy, Sterling Cox, Lily Kuonen and Edison William. Located in Cox’s 500 square foot, mother-in-law apartment behind his Avondale home, “The Apartment Exhibition” features over 30 pieces that touch on concepts of cohabitation, tenancy and ownership as well as deeper, provocative ideas such as nostalgia, impermanence and belonging.
This Sunday, May 26 at 10 a.m., Aiuppy is presenting the performance-event “Waffles.” At the time of this posting, the reservation-only event was at capacity. The display, however, can be viewed through June 2; an appointment to see “The Apartment Exhibition” can be made by contacting email@example.com
The participants agreed to be interviewed via e-mail. What follows is a transcription of their replies.
Starehouse: Could you describe your contributions to “The Apartment Exhibition”?
Thony Aiuppy: I have a wall piece called Residual Effect. It’s continually changing throughout the duration of the exhibition. The big idea behind the work is to explore how memory inhabits a space even after people have left it. The project uses charcoal, graphite and acrylic paint to capture shadows, contours of figures, and reflective light from outside sources and objects. Layers of paint and dry material work and flex between each other to create a memory effect.
Lily and I collaborated on a project where we mark each person’s, or guest’s, height. We both shared this memory and tradition of marking heights on birthdays or other occasions. It’s another way of owning the space and documenting who’s visited us during our time at the apartment.
I also have a collection of snapshots, called “Amenities,” that explore unforeseen treasures in the space. Visit the website to check them out.
S: When I was at the opening reception, you traced me on the wall, seemingly as part of the “Guests’ Height” collaboration with Lily Kuonen. Was this a kind of tribute to some parents’ practice of tracing their children’s height on walls and door frames?
T.A.: I talked about this in the previous question. I think that tracking children’s heights throughout a time at the home is intriguing because my wife and I started doing this with our son, Blaise, when he turned one. Time seems to collapse when you see how fast he’s grown in such a short amount of time; several inches in a year.
S: Tell me about your upcoming performance-event “Waffles.” What is the impetus behind that and what will it entail?
T.A.: “Waffles” is a performance that will happen this Sunday at 10 a.m. at the apartment. The idea is simply to make waffles for invited (by RSVP) guests. Making food for people is a very précis thing. Americans surround their most important affairs around food: marriage proposals, closing a business deal, going on a date, etc. Food is very important, but it becomes even more special when you are invited to someone’s house for a meal. “Waffles” taps into that experience.
During the time of the performance, I will be making waffles right on the spot. I’m sure I’ll be interjecting personal anecdotes and jokes as I progress through the experience. The process of adding ingredients to create the batter, spending time to cook the food, and then serving it up to guests adds to this sense of anticipation and time spent by the preparer for the other, in this case, the guest. Time can be more important to us than even money. I think that it is fitting that I’d spend mine making delicious food for new, and old, friends.
Starehouse: In a previous conversation, you had told me that the “The Apartment Exhibition” was in part inspired by Hans-Ulrich Obrist’s 1991 exhibit that featured artwork displayed in his kitchen. What did you find so appealing about that particular idea and how did you translate that initial inspiration into this exhibit?
Staci Bu Shea: Obrist’s 1991 kitchen exhibition was created in the spirit of exhibiting work in an unexpected place. This was the initial inspiration. I’ve been interested in blurring the line between public and private space, and “The Apartment Exhibition” started with this impetus. Over the past 8 months of dialogue between the artists, it resulted with an attempt to discern “home,” or lack thereof, through the project. It was also about the physical and philosophical architecture of the space and our contingent occupancy. It was explementary of the ephemeral properties of a rental experience.
Through the exhibition, we became roommates. We built relationships with each other. We made up roles for some of us to identify with, like Sterling as landlord, myself as property manager. It was held within a potentially rentable garage apartment and became about apartments and about living; this is how the exhibition became transparent. It was about and concerned itself. The artists explained this transparency through their works. The artists were the most important components to this project, and I believe they all understood that The Apartment was an essential factor that we were all dependent on. And from that point they designated their personal relationship to it. I’m interested in art that is autonomous and is this way because it does not depend on the formulaic “rules of the game” and value systems. I think we tapped into how the apartment itself could potentially be independent of realty, too. A hyper-realized apartment and experience for rent.
S: What do you think are some of the concepts that the group is trying to collectively address with this exhibit?
S.B.: One of the most wonderful aspects to this exhibition was the group’s willingness to do things that they typically could not do in a traditional art setting. With every idea, there was a drive to push it a little further. Collectively, the artists distinguished a sense of place in relation to their bodies and anecdotal experiences, and to the past, present, and future of the apartment. They also explored, and offered, ownership in the way the objects they produced interacted with the space. They collectively addressed ephemera, take-aways, experience-as-art, voyeurism, and interaction. They provided vignettes into their personal interpretations of home and included family, friends, and strangers. They included representations of identity in living quarters, documentation of individuals in real-time and altering this memory at a later date, opportunities to self-realize when thinking about home, and scenarios for potential dreams.
S.: How did you approach this exhibition from a curatorial stance?
S.B.: In the summer of 2012, I presented the project to Lily Kuonen and asked if and how she would like to be a part of something like this. It led to Sterling Cox: a fresh, new friend I met around that time, and whose garage apartment (a part of his house) where the exhibition has taken place; then, to Edison William and Thony Aiuppy. I invited them over to Cox’s one evening and cooked them curry and rice. I presented the project to the group.
Exhibitions are not permanent. This particular exhibition presented the opportunity to think about realty of space, objects, and experience. I wanted to see how simultaneously material and immaterial this exhibition could be, so I created a website. Here, all information and web-specific works are stored there like storage unit. Now the exhibition becomes virtual; part of it can continuously be revisited and the concept reactualized. Once the physical manifestation of the exhibition is no longer present, the exhibition has the possibility of relating to many places, not just one apartment – most specifically, a renter’s experience; one relatable to most.
An integral part of the exhibition: it was not complete or finished at the start of the Open House. The exhibition grew into itself. It needed the artists present at various times throughout the month, alone; and the guests to interact with the work. It needed the trash to be taken out a few times. It needed a brunch with family and friends. It needed Marcel Duchamp’s “A Guest + A Host = A Ghost.”
A way of documenting this project, I wrote instructions on the mirror for bathroom-goers to take a “selfie” in the mirror, hashtag it, and upload it onto their personal social media forums.
Curating this exhibition, I realized I’m not an interior decorator.
S.: The actual apartment space seems pretty cozy. What were some of the challenges you faced in featuring four artists in that area?
S.B.: Yes, it’s lovely how cozy it is! Honestly, there weren’t any challenges with where the artists’ work is situated within the space. Since this exhibition happened slowly, the positioning was very organic.
Thinking about space though, Alicia Canessa played realtor [of experience] and bartender in the spacious closet of the living room during the Open House. She was an integral part and meshed well with the Kuonen and Aiuppy’s work in the living room. She fixed up the featured mixed drink “Security Deposit” (two parts Bauchant, one part Fernet, designed by Grape & Grain Exchange, San Marco). Fun fact: we chuckled about the bartender “being in the closet” -completely intentional.
S.: You used Craigslist to “advertise” the exhibit. Did you have any responses from any apartment hunters?
S.B.: We received a response from Chris Cogan, professor of experimental media and video installation at the University of Georgia, and we were all very giddy when we opened the e-mail. He has a house in Amelia Island and came to visit the Open House. Upon entering The Apartment, he caught me drinking water from the kitchen faucet with my hands because I suddenly had dry-throat and there were no cups in sight. It was quite embarrassing, but still, a nice, humble introduction.
Other than that, we received 17 spam emails! They’re really great! I’ve always had a fascination with reading spam emails, because they can be really creative. This is telling of Craigslist’s function, too. No one responded to our posts under “For Rent” and “Sublet,” except for spammers “who” don’t even know the content of our posts! I really wish I knew how many people read the posts. Why aren’t people more curious?
How are you doing? Guess fine I presume. My name is (Kate Peter) am a very simple and quiet person to live with. I am writing just to confirm if you still have the room for rent…………..If YES please I will like to have answers to the following questions below:
1) I will like to know the description of the room, size, and the
social apparatus/equipments in there.
2) Moving date that the room will be available
3) I will like to have the rent fee per month plus the utilities.
4) Also I will like to know if there is any garage or parking space
cause i will have my own car come over there.
5) I will also be coming with some of my furniture, that is if it is
allowed, like bed, book shelf cause I read allot, shoe rack etc
Am from Canada and I will be having some seminars coming up soon . Right now am working for a Non Government Organization on a program on children with orphans and heart related probs.
My next program/seminars will be in Your Neighborhood and I will need a room to stay for these seminars, so I want to secure a room before my arrival to the states.
I can’t wait to arrive to US cause I’ve heard a lot about the state….More so I will be staying for the period of 12-13 months, Pls do get back to me with the room description, move in rent fees for the first month, Utilities and deposit if included. And if any picture of the room is available, kindly attach it with your reply please.
Hope to read from you. Have a wonderful and productive day. Kindly Hit me Back
Starehouse: Could you describe your contributions to “The Apartment Exhibition”?
Sterling Cox: For the posters, I drew upon my experience in college at FSU. More often than not there was a Bud Light poster, football team poster [Seminoles], and/or Bob Marley poster in every house or apartment. These were certain symbols that expressed the residents’ self-images to visitors in a glance. I wanted to reconstruct the images, degrade them a bit digitally, and use readily available tools (i.e. Google Image Search and Paint) to make a kind of “hyper poster” that was printed on a high quality medium and mounted. So it was kind of a way to explore the way we might use certain agreed upon imagery, in some cases a corporate logo to express our self-image to other people.
S.: One piece is titled “To Alan Watts’; was this a kind of acknowledgement of Buddhist ideas of Impermanence, Unsatisfactoriness and Selflessness as filtered through the apartment/residence experience? Or am I totally off the mark?
S.C.: For the refrigerator, yes your interpretation is accurate. Another thing that fascinates me is the symbols we use to convey reality, which seems like another symbol, etc. and we start to come to the conclusion that whatever the reality of the “actual” thing is we’re trying to describe is elusive. This was something first pointed out to me in an old Alan Watts lecture. So in a sense I went grocery shopping and filled the refrigerator with symbols of groceries, in this case an iPod saying the words then put another iPod in there describing what was actually in the refrigerator which was an iPod speaking food. The orange with Alan Watts’s name written on it was just supposed to be a little fun thing to maybe run across if you looked in the butter thing and wasn’t intended to be the name of the work.
I hope that answered the question. I tend to ramble, and I’m not used to the discussion surrounding art. In all honesty, I just wanted to make art that might make someone laugh.
Starehouse: Could you describe your contributions to “The Apartment Exhibition”?
Lily Kuonen: As far as the actual works I contributed, I explored the possibility of physically changing my address to “The Apartment” for the run of the show with a USPS form and mail delivered to that address, I created a video piece that loops one hour of continuous play shuffling through a Benjamin Moore paint selection, I installed a station for writing postcards where participants were instructed to “Think of the place you have lived that has felt the most like ‘home.’ Use this card to mail a note to the current resident of that address.” I assembled a structure of milk crates in which individually wrapped notes were contained within bubble wrap, and participants could take one and “care for” it. The notes were items that get left behind, and fall through the cracks between places and spaces. For the coffee table in the apartment I arranged postcards from my personal collection, placing them by category including The Grand Tour, Family Vacations, Homes, Gifts, and The Heart of the West. These postcards have been collected from travels over the past nine or so years, and postcards that have been given to me in the various places I have lived. I also collaborated with one of my fellow roommates, Thony Aiuppy, to offer guests of the apartment the opportunity to mark their heights within the space.
Beyond actual works, we all met several times over the course of the past year to develop the conceptual ideas of the show. We offered help and support in the form of critique for each other, and through these exchanges we developed what would become The Apartment Exhibition.
S.: It seems like your piece “Care For” used your “Playntings” approach in the sense that it reappropriated reusable objects like bubble wrap and other packing materials. I’m wondering if you might have used that same sensibility in your approach towards some of the other pieces in the show, particularly with something like “Dreaming in Color.”
L.K.: Lately, I have been discussing with Staci how PLAYNTINGS, as a descriptor, really embodies my philosophy or approach to materials, beyond that of just ‘painting’ materials. The ways in which I combine them, or activate them, investigating strength, support, flexibility, and the unknown. Care For most definitely follows this line of investigation, and involves a requirement of the participant/viewer as well. Dreaming in Color actually developed out of a practice I have been doing in my studio lately, but have yet to formalize completely. I have been taking short videos of things in my studio, sometimes it’s just light and shadows, or spills of paint, or maybe just my finger over the lens, but I think of these short videos as ‘sketches’ or thoughts, and one happened to lead to work for the exhibition.
S.: Could you describe your motivation behind utilizing postcards in the exhibition?
L.K.: The concept first developed out of considering how when you occupy a space, as in an apartment or a home, whether or not you rent or own, you still technically “own” the actual physical address; changing your mailing address to that particular location. I wanted to develop a series of postcards that required participants to reflect on past places they have occupied, and then reach out to the current resident there, for one more step of an extension. I have always been an avid postcard collector, and I really love to receive them, by the way, my address is 1529 S. McDuff Ave. Apt. 2 Jacksonville, FL 32205. After I developed the hand-cut and drawn postcards for the exhibition, I considered my actual collection of postcards, which is probably double what I presented in the exhibition. For me, the postcards reflect on distance away from a certain place, whether through travels or relationships, adding another layer of reflection on ‘sense of place.’ The collection that I used for the exhibition represents nine or more years of travels and relationships.
S.: Tell me about your recent performance-event, “A Sunday Conversation”? What was the inspiration behind this? Do you think it was a success?
L.K.: Well, Staci suggested I present a lecture or a performance, and I proposed this option, “A Sunday kind of Conversation.” As you know, my family – my mom Sheila Kuonen, my dad Joe, and my sister Oceanna – all live in Sherwood, Arkansas. Every Sunday my family calls me for a speakerphone conversation. We catch up on the week, we talk about what is coming ahead, and we share with each other — our respective places (whether it’s simply the weather as of late, what’s growing in the garden, or what’s going on in my studio). This conversation is their link to the place I live, and what I do here, and vice versa. As this exhibition was conceptualized, it became important for me to not only reflect personally on my own sense of place here, but how I share these ideas with my family. These speakerphone conversations (though awkward at times) help us bridge the physical distance between us, so that my family can consider the development of my art practice. Therefore, I called them to engage them in a discussion of the visual and conceptual properties of the exhibition.
I think it was a ‘success.’ My family was a bit nervous about it, but they were great. I always feel so lucky to have such a supportive family, who wants to know the crazy things I am up to. They all called me individually a few days after the conversation, and responded with their enthusiasm for the experience. They explained how they felt connected to what was going on, and how it made them really reflect on the concept of home and comfort.
Starehouse: Could you describe your contributions to “The Apartment Exhibition”?
Edison William: It was quite a specific pleasure for me personally to be able to inhabit the space within the “bedroom” of the Apartment Exhibition. More recently, I have evolved my own definition of a bedroom as an accommodation in the sense that it is this convenient arrangement of “things” within a room that most individuals generally accept and construct it around the innate capabilities of the bedroom; sufficing restlessness, insinuating intimacy, and promoting the curative properties of sleep. Well, I work in my bedroom, and I am most restless and agitated in it, and I sleep far better in ANY room besides it, and I would much rather be outside, intimate in the dirt, rolling around like an ANIMAL.
The concept behind this room’s particular construction is to exhibit that restlessness by overwhelming the walls while minimally occupying the floor. It is a private place to sleep; a bed to lie in and drift away to subconsciousness, hoping that the last glimpses of the decor, the ever-consistent ticking of the clock, and overwhelming scents of cedar, will influence some sort of strange construction within the dream that could manifest. This room is an experiment for sensory stimuli. It is esoteric comfort. There is a bed; my own bed layered with black sheets with a framed canvas print of an angular nude tucked in under the white down comforter, which is entirely dusted with aromatic cedar sawdust. The walls are littered with thirteen cedar wood frames, housing canvas prints, two repetitious dead leaf collages, two mirrors, a clock, and a nightstand containing a white lamp and two books, “The Interpretation of Dreams,” by Sigmund Freud, and “Interaction With Color,” by Josef Albers. There is also a large wooden vase, comprised and constructed with many pieces of cedar wood, with a gigantic white, plastic flower blooming from it. The closet contains a long and tangled cable suspended at eye level, holding and displaying a melting clock. There is also a lamp with no light bulb, an unfinished mirror, an unfinished clock, and an unfinished frame with a hammer in front of it. I hand-built all the frames, clocks, and mirrors, collected the sawdust from each, and packaged it within twenty-four small, white, and transparent pouches, which were placed sporadically around the bed. There are two large windows in this somewhat small room.
S.: Your work focused on the bedroom of the apartment. I’m curious if your prints that you included are inspired by sleeping and dreaming?
E.W.: Oh, they are most definitely and genuinely influenced by that realm. Now that is not to say they are pure duplicates by any means, as the limitations of natural photographic capture, more specifically, filmed capture, greatly hinder the absurdities and incongruities we find within subconscious reality. It could be quite simple to physically build and construct a scenario that would mimic a perfect likeness of a dream, and THEN photograph it, but tableau and tableau vivant photography, I feel, would put the viewer into that methodically contrived construction of objects and people rather than the unplanned and arbitrary course of action that are ingrained within dream composition. The images are constructed by an idiosyncratic arrangement of pieces of colored film, sandwiched and joined together with scotch-tape to form a transparent collage. I think the aspects of this particular process symbolically parallels the processes within the subconscious mind, as it gathers the past, layers it, and voila! – a dream is born … it plays out, it dissipates, and it is lost almost entirely. The parts that lastingly linger into the conscious realm are what I feed off of. I cannot even begin to express just how prevalent wind and water are in my own mental motion pictures. I have such a fascination for tornadoes and waterspouts, but have never personally seen one, yet somehow, they manifest with ferocity and grace and just saturate and invade me in my sleep. I mean ALL the time. Aside from the literal interpretation of storms, and how I have read them to be perceived as metaphors for cleansing the soul by bringing about change through turbulent manners, I think of them more as how Freud descriptively described the purpose of most dreams as being wish-fulfillments, and I just attach myself to that, and believe in it. This has literally romanticized my dreams, especially of natural weather forces, and I feel very empowered to romanticize these natural representations, thus I am able to find shapes in reality, deconstruct and reassemble them with subconscious intent. The real waterfall found within “Worry, Weary, Waterspout,” is about as close of a resemblance to the funnel of a waterspout that I can physically find in MY reality. And I worked hard to find it. “Run for Your Lives,” isn’t about seeing hoses and extension cords figuratively running from some unseen danger; it is the reconstruction and portrayal of the basic FRAMEWORK of running, the blueprints of running, because I run from strangers with knives and creatures with legs quite often in my sleep. Sometimes, these creatures are dreadfully horrific…but I love their creation. I dream of women because it is what I personally desire, but I see certain women in my dreams that I have thoroughly neglected, and I continue to do so through complete and utter ignorance. “The Great Neglect,” encapsulates the most vividly intense, and wildly destructive relationship I have ever been a part of, and I don’t like to dream about it, but I cannot control it. I dream of coastlines littered with people, and vessels transporting goods and services, and I think to myself, how fortunate I am to have been planted and raised near this watery place I can call Florida, because apparently, I breathe it into my soul.
S.: When I spoke with you at the opening reception, you had mentioned the possibility of allowing visitors the chance to actually spend some private time and even nap in the bedroom that features your work. What was the motivation behind this? Is that still being considered as a possibility?
E.W.: I think this city needs to eat, sleep, and breathe artwork. In all shapes and forms. With that being said, I initially thought of expanding upon the KIND of time spent with art directly from the purpose of the Apartment Exhibition, which to me, is an alternative venue that prudently distorts viewpoints to push for the maturation of progressing the intent of artwork. We need more “apartment exhibitions”; we need to conjure up ways to make “experience art,” but far beyond the already prevailing and ubiquitous venues that globally house art. It is as simple as broadcasting films onto buildings or screens in a park, which is a specific variation I truly admire and feel such wonderful nostalgia from.
I remember when I was very young, I attended what they commonly call a “lock-in” at the MOSH here in town. I believe I was eight or nine at the time, and after a long evening of making rubber, and assembling crafts, and playing with dry ice, they put a movie on a big screen, and kind of had an informal lights out. But nobody went to sleep. Hundreds of kids my age, and a little older, were jumping from group to group, stepping over sleeping bags that were scattered across the floor, playing tag and hide-and-seek…all under the cover of darkness. The only illumination was from the movie screen, and the lights directed onto the walls, exhibiting all the odds and ends you would find on museum walls. And we’re talking about MY youth’s generation in 1992. I don’t need to go into detail about how different things were…maybe I can just say “The Disney Channel,” and that could be enough to show how youth has wandered away; the last generation before “modern distraction” and before “technology.” I MISS it so much.
What I want is to recreate this particular experience with artworks that are designed by the subconscious; no political statements, no injustices, no social studies, no religion – just tangents from Freud and the Surrealists. Of course I want to have people sleep in the bedroom I created; I have myself. If you can even fall asleep to the smell of a strange forest, dream a dream influenced by the works on the walls, and wake and make new opinions of oneself, then I would be very content with the purpose of this lonely bedroom. The space is limited, the regulation of time is a deterring factor and quite problematic…but I want to do it. But what I really want is to create a larger “lock-in” with real sleeping bags strewn across the floor, with wall decor and installations and sculptures, even performance pieces, designed for sleep and made from dreams. We have such large spaces within our art community; let’s exploit them.
All photos by Laura Evans
Daniel A. Brown