Thursday, July 17, 2008


Dearest K,
I write from an imaginary world that has taken form in a small bungalow in Logan Square. Since the "nesting period" of wintertime, Gunnatowski have built a woods-y wonderland in their 2 bedroom apartment. This habitable installation--made of soft sculpture, wood-work, paper, plastic, and technology--is the result of a collaboration between Karolina Gnatowski and Dan Gunn. The idea started as a proposal for an inflatable campfire installation for Gallery 400. Overly ambitious, the two decided to work on a smaller scale to prove their worth and test their boundaries. Beginning with one room, the living room became a camp site surrounded by felted woods, furry creatures in the night, a flaming fire, and the sound of crickets and other night crawlers. It just grew from there, room by room, ceiling to floor, until the entire space (save for one storage room marked "employees only") mimicked a larger than life diorama.
Crafted with the come-back D.I.Y. aesthetic, the installation is mocking, playful, and entertaining to explore. It might almost be surreal, except for the fact that the adult perceptions are at a minimum---only a few strategically placed genitalia (as in the 9-foot Brother monster). Surrounded by curious innocence, I began to relive the idyllic moments of growing up: camping with my dad, fort-making with my brothers, shadowbox book reports, and the glow-in-the-dark star ceiling fascination of being 13.
Lately, my own artistic interests lean towards the play between "real" and virtual, so similar themes in Territory caught my attention. Before finding out that Dan spent some time building scenery for an area theater, I noticed the dichotomy of the "set" within a "scene." These props or stage sets (a log cabin that holds a bed, the shipwreck kitchen table) are set within an already created/designed structure (the apartment containing the usual: couch, bookshelves, stove, sink, ceiling fan, light switch, etc.). In a typical theater setting, the minimal props give just enough to hint at an entire scene, leaving room for the viewer to imagine the rest, like supports of believability. Yet in this case, the staged sets/props interact with the sets/props of reality, although both somewhat curated. The log cabin bedroom with clouds of pillow stuffing oppose shelves of clothes, someone's sweatshirt hangs on a rack next to glowing-eyed bear cubs, and an appropriated Olaf Eliasson sun rises over the fridge---pangs of domesticity interrupt the play. Reminds me of the conversations we've had about balancing our creative life and meandering head space with operating in reality. The dual thinking and negotiations of an artist in a social world.
(Plus, I loved the idea of live-space directly mixed with art-space, working on a project and living with it---or in it!---blending creative practice and everyday ritual.)

The best details, though, reside in the media-ized faux tech-nature. The artists not only used grade school materials to imitate the natural world, but they also utilized technology. In the videos below, you will see some adorable gimmicks in action: 1. A dramatically lit silky scarf dancing in electric fan wind. 2. The sound of nature via ghetto blaster.

also features a spy-cam video of domestic animals (Karolina's cats) inhabiting the faux-wilderness on a tiny t.v. set in the living room, and many battery powered LED push lights that add an eerie glow to the overall scene.

To further the irony, the closing party* includes indoor campfire songs and microwaved marshmallow smores. Should be an amusing experience!


...and that's my report from Chicago. Hope you're feeling as inspired!

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