The Mattress Factory’s latest show, Factory Installed 2019, features eight new exhibitions by nine artists from around the world. The site-specific installations include Night Blooms by Tra Bouscaren, Holding Fragments by Naomi Draper, You’re Not the Boss of Me by Nathan Hall, Laboratory for Other Worlds by Patte Loper, Dragonfruit by Pepe Mar, “Taking good care of your things leads to taking good care of yourself” by Adam Milner, All is Not Forgotten by Patrick Robideau and The Other Apartment by Sohrab Kashani and Jon Rubin, which occurs simultaneously in Pittsburgh and Tehran.
Main Building – 500 Sampsonia Way
The Other Apartment – Sohrab Kashani & Jon Rubin: The Other Apartment is a collaborative project between Pittsburgh-based artist Jon Rubin and Tehran-based artist Sohrab Kashani that occurs in two sites simultaneously. The work features a dual site-specific space: Kashani’s apartment in Tehran, Iran, and an exact replica of that apartment and all of its contents—using a team of fabricators, handmade reproductions, and 3D printing—at the Mattress Factory Museum in Pittsburgh. For the past 11 years, Kashani has used his apartment as a space for exhibiting contemporary art and as an artist residency, one of the first of its kind in the country. When the two apartments are activated in the US and Iran, The Other Apartment will house concurrent art ventures, producing exhibitions, programs, and events—in each case, every object, video, and performance that happens in one space is meticulously duplicated for the other.
Night Blooms – Tra Bouscaren: Night Blooms engages spectacle at the crossroads of waste culture and the surveillance state. Orphaned objects form the material basis of Bouscaren’s work. His site-responsive process begins with salvaging local materials from the waste stream that bear symbolic, indexical, and poetic resonance with what he identifies as the toxic underbelly of American culture. Aggregating these waste materials into networks of provisional assemblage, he weaves surveillance equipment through the sculpture such that it captures people who approach the work.
The live surveillance feeds are then algorithmically mixed and projected in real-time to submerge the sculptural network and surrounding area in an algorithmically generated video bath. The waste-based sculpture is thereby rendered visible through the surveillance capture of the very people who enter the space. The programmed act of projection-mapping live video mashups of viewer-participants back onto the physical structure of the exhibition serves to implicate spectators back into what they have arrived to judge.
Night Blooms sound design by Negativland.
Dragonfruit – Pepe Mar: In this body of work, Mar absorbs, and ultimately scatters back to his viewer, the layered and disparate historical references which pollinate his career. He cites the history of art and Indigenous artistic practices; of fashion and the queer club scene of the last forty years; of the Mattress Factory itself; and of his own fifteen-year practice. Creating a series of custom textiles with images borrowed from these diverse sources, Mar collages, sews, and paints this material, and ultimately brings together these distinct imageries to derive entirely new contexts from the recombined originals.
Central to Mar’s process are humanoid figures he calls “Paprikas.” These characters feature throughout his work, and they serve the role of mythological devourers who ingest and digest visual references from the many fonts of inspiration which inform Mar’s practice. For Dragonfruit, Mar creates a new generation of Paprikas made predominantly of leather, harnesses, and chains purchased from second-hand stores with close ties to the LGBTQ community, allowing references to the queer club, bondage, and leather scenes to bubble up to the surface of his practice.
Dragonfruit engages in world-building at a massive scale, where Paprikas take in all that surrounds them only to expel it into the world as new matter. Mar collapses time into one continuous moment, threading past and present through his visual references and laying flat the entirety of his career between then and now. The exhibition encapsulates all things that have seeded Mar’s practice, an Encyclopedic Palace of the World, which puts on display the ordered chaos of Dragonfruit’s own creation.
All is Not Forgotten – Patrick Robideau: The sculptural and installation work of Patrick Robideau uses architecture and space as devices through which to explore issues of memory and its emotional residue. Carefully and methodically constructed, Robideau’s forms often combine a seductive material allure that attracts the viewer, with a physical construction that keeps the viewer at a certain distance. In this way, the work often replicates the process of a memory that draws us in but can only be partially accessed. While his works often feature architectural constructions, they are less specific locales and more like the terrain of half-remembered dreams.
All is Not Forgotten will use an old house facade that was carefully dismantled and then rebuilt in the artist’s studio. The house facade will be erected at a 25-degree angle in the back of the gallery and only visible through a large viewing window in the front of the gallery. The space between the window and facade will be decked up and covered with soil, suggesting that the house has been buried in the gallery. To the left of the viewing window, there will be an entrance to a hallway that will lead to the back of the gallery. When traveling down the hallway the house will not be visible. At the end of the hallway, there will be another viewing window that will be attached to a small simulated attic room. The viewer will not be able to enter the room but only peer through the window. There will also be two tunnel openings in the hallway. The tunnels will be accessible and lead to visual experiences that will enhance the understanding of the house.
The installation is about the story of a house and its inhabitants. The Memory of something that can only be found in parts. The viewer will never see the whole picture at once, but must piece together the information they have received.
Holding Fragments – Naomi Draper: The central element of Naomi Draper’s installation Holding Fragments is composed of thousands of pressed Daucus Carota flowers, known commonly as Queen Anne’s Lace. These plants were gathered from sites around the city of Pittsburgh over the last two months and are woven together to form an interlaced structure of fabric.
Draper’s practice investigates processes of collecting, preserving, and archiving. Working through slow, repetitive and meticulous methods of construction she attempts to stretch and consolidate the associative potential of natural particles and fragments harvested from our landscape.
The work references a diverse range of research sources that are centered around botany and botanical activity throughout history. Exploring the relationship between human and plant species, Draper is drawn to the scale, energy, intention and ambition of eighteenth and nineteenth-century botanical endeavors and developments, when the natural landscape was viewed as a place of wonder and discovery.
While landscape is defined as “all the visible features of an area”, Draper is interested in the notion of landscape as a surface, a covering or veneer. Her artwork considers what it might be concealing, and what it might hold. How a closer engagement with these natural materials might lead us to an interior space, slowly revealing the potential and possibility of this space, as a place to shelter the precious and yield that which is valuable; a bank, an archive, a sanctuary.
You’re Not the Boss of Me – Nathan Hall: Hall’s installation is in two parts. The primary piece is “You’re Not the Boss of Me,” a harpsichord suspended in bondage rope in the gallery, with soundtrack from the instrument. There’s also “About Place,” a choir piece composed for singing in the Mattress Factory parking lot, with texts from the museum’s founder Barbara Luderowski.
Both pieces explore site-specific aspects of music and add visual elements. The harpsichord work is about the balance between being a classically-trained composer and contemporary queer artist, and where those identities overlap. The choir piece is his first vocal work to explore singers moving in formations outdoors. He wants the movements and the text to anchor the music into a specific place and time, as well as to be a tribute to Barbara and the creative spaces she has made possible.
Laboratory for Other Worlds – Patte Loper: Inspired by broader ideas put forth in recent movements concerning social and environmental justice, this immersive installation approaches the vast number of potential outcomes of personal/political/societal choices through the analogously constructed form of a science fiction film set.
Following a methodology of surrealist automatism—a process of suppressing conscious control over the process of creating—the formation of the space and its representation display complex, structured, and peculiarly playful relationships between the intuitive and the psychological, between the human body and the subconscious. The piece intertwines hand-built structures, paintings, and sculptures made from humble materials with video and audio elements in part by solar panel technology.
Emulating the stark décor/functionality of a science lab, but one existing in an unspecified time or space, Laboratory for Other Worlds posits environments, characters, and materials in a state of observation and/or in a process of formation. The format of a lab allows for the possibility of failure as well as for many things to be happening at once, and by this nature, posits a designated environment for discovery, self-assessment, and interpretation in which the viewer is prompted to form their own connections.
“Taking good care of your things leads to taking good care of yourself” – Adam Milner: Milner’s installations articulate and confuse spaces of the museum, home, body, archive, and hoard. Milner, who is suspicious of tidying philosophies and how systems of organization exist in hierarchies, has created a practice that attempts to deal with the things around him through conflicting gestures of collecting, combining, containing, and releasing.
The exhibition gleans its title from an Instagram post by Marie Kondo, whose books and Netflix show about tidying up have made her a household name. The quote, and Kondo’s empire in general, is a reminder of our complicated relationships to the things around us, and how we cling to things – but also, how they sometimes cling back. Milner’s sprawling and idiosyncratic practice draws upon aesthetics of museum and retail display, domestic interiors, and TV shows like Hoarders and Kondo’s Tidying Up. These new sculptures employ various strategies of containment, and point to the paradox that efforts to contain something can embody dueling philosophies of care and control, love and domination.
About the Mattress Factory:Hailed as the best museum for installation art in the United States, the Mattress Factory invites visitors to experience “art you can get into.” Over the past 42 years, the Mattress Factory has presented and commissioned new installation and performance works by over 750 artists, both established and emerging, who have challenged themselves and their audiences through the support of the museum’s exceptional residency program. The Mattress Factory’s outreach programs serve more than 30,000 students, teachers, adults, and families annually, and its activities as a visitor attraction, educator and employer continue to invigorate Pittsburgh’s North Side. For more information, call 412.231.3169 or visit mattress.org.
Writing via press release courtesy of the Mattress Factory