A Room of One’s Own was the first exhibition at Plat- where the subject matter eclipsed the form; where rather than looking outwards I dove in, letting the proposition of the exhibition pull me into a spineless body of activity that led me to physically reside in the room, but took my mind down a track that spiralled elsewhere. Rather than looking at the works, I pursued series of drawings and readings that sprawled unsystematically from one notion to the next until I found myself entangled in a myriad of loosely connected thoughts that stemmed from, rather than investigated, those proposed by Vincent and Jade. Perhaps this is what it meant to act in A Room of My Own: hijacking the ‘one’ like a parasite, eating it from the inside out until it embodied my own subjectivity.
The exhibition was confronting because it felt frictionless. Balanced. Not many tensions arose either in living with or hosting it: co-living came with few minor adjustments and visitors were immediately presented with worlds to dive into –the space-depicting, narrative-carrying paintings acting as windows into fictional spaces. Close enough to the corners of the room to retreat into privacy, detailed enough to build walls of concentration. Visitors invested much of their time looking, maybe even more than I; the awkwardness of stepping into a stranger’s living room melted.
The idea of Plǝt- was to mark out a time and space from which to reflect. To be able to see an exhibition’s back, front and centre. To know it inside out. This of course, proved too idealistic: the idea of proximity as a key to understanding, to secret knowledge, to inner perspectives, was at most a full-blown romanticism, at least the shadow of a modernist idea. An artwork presents an opaque surface, a lifeless body, keeping us at arm’s length with its outer edges. It does not voice its inner consciousness. It will not whisper a truth in the middle of the night or over an early morning coffee.
And yet the idea persisted. When Jade and Vincent’s work resisted opening further than the initial transparencies –when their anecdotes of making no longer keyed open new perspectives– the temptation to ask for guidance from other voices arose. Kathy Acker, Chris Kraus, Kate Zambreno, Jean Rhys, Anne Carson, Julia Cooper, Koleka Putuma. Each underlined paragraph promised an entrance into the work, the room, but all it created was an insatiable hunger. I began to inhale rather than chew. Marc Augé, Isobel Graw, Maggie Nelson. All their lines of thought so clear, so set in print, even when their style was fractured. My perception dissipated. With my attention tuned to a thousand stories, sleep refused presence unless lullabied into the room by more stories told by recorded voices; endless streamers of narrative colourfully sweeping around me until I became dizzy. I would fall into unconsciousness rather than sleep. Dreamless. No self-cultivated narrative grew, not even a conspiracy theory. I attempted to create lines by piecing together fragments of others’ voices, a singular puzzle out of unrelated sets, but the body of thought remained inanimate.
I have spent two years at Plǝt- stringing together narratives about the exhibitions. But now a panic grew. Unable to hear my own voice over the chorus that I was reading, I began to spend more time as the exhibition’s resident. In some way, Virginia Woolf was right: a room of one’s own is conducive to fiction. Isolation –experience without the reference of others’ perspectives- cultivates doubt. Memories begin to blur, to warp, to mutate, under the pressure of emotions. A room of one’s own allows one to lock the door, to align the room with the inside of one’s head, staying in and mulling things over. Picking through every detail until it transforms.
Trying to ram the spin into a stop, I began attempting to conclude; but kept looking for permission to begin writing: intellectual permission, situational permission, contextual and content-driven permission. The space proposed itself as a set from which to write and perform homegrown scripts; but the characters outgrew the stage, overshadowing each other without a hint of Nosferatu-style. I felt sapped of all energy. I began to desire the ability to drop out, to expel myself from the room that was making my head spin.
But then the exhibition ended. I peeled the words ‘A Room of One’s Own’ off the door, a gesture that paradoxically turned the room I had been sharing back into my own again. Yet while the royal we of the exhibition space dissolved, the room continued to host the I,I,I,I,I,I,I’s that I’d spent the six weeks of the exhibition reading.
What grew from A Room of One’s Own was then less a novel than a body of inverted fragments. Rather than a whole in pieces, the exhibition brought together pieces into the space that, in the time they were given, did not grow together. With seeds planted far apart, the spindly ideas that grew from the exhibition struggled to grow into a singular body: the forest never emerged, remaining instead as a collection of trees, a room full of carpet and paintings.
It’s Monday, two days after opening A Room of One’s Own, and the room is filling back with my own belongings. Jade and Vincent, whose practice stems from ideas of the gesamtwerk –the total work of art– often make work that inhabits entire spaces which, in this case, meant the room was emptied of everything except for the table, some chairs and a lamp, to give space for their installation. Consisting of nine paintings, a sculpture and a collaged carpet, the installation of Jade and Vincent turned the space into a warm, but barren, room. Now, two days further, plants, paintbrushes, pencils and books are making their way back, returning back into a space that is living.
The orbiting point of Jade and Vincent’s previous installations have often been domesticity, aiming to bring daily life into the exhibition space. Therefore inviting them to exhibit at Plǝt-, a living room dedicated to cohabitating with contemporary art, seemed to be a gesture that could accommodate this even further. However, perhaps rather than it being an encouraging space for such a practice, it was rather a space that already embodied elements that they usually harness as material. Their work often takes the form of furniture on which to sit, for example, or dinners around which a space is made. But at Plǝt-, the furniture and act-of-living is already present, and perhaps because of this the resulting exhibition that Jade and Vincent made became the most stripped back installation they have made so far.
Rather than their work being pieces that build a space at large, in this exhibition the works of Jade and Vincent present other spaces in which to dive into. Oscillating between shadowy, empty geometric spaces depicted in pastels and bright, imagined spaces that host family moments, the works of Jade and Vincent become windows into other, fictional worlds that they themselves –along with their children and their fictional dog– inhabit as characters. Plǝt-, empty except for the most essential furniture and a collaged carpet that encompasses the edges of the room, becomes something similar to a waiting room, or a corridor that leads to other worlds.
To live in this space then feels to be something like living on the platform of a stairwell. Kind of connected to the house, but definitely not inside it, Plǝt- now feels closer to an in between space than a living room. Not quite committing to taking over the room, but not just paintings on the walls either, the exhibition has stopped spreading midway –quite literally– by touching all but a small square of the space in the centre dedicated to the act of living. While initially I spent hours idling on the installed carpet around the periphery of room –reading, writing, talking, looking– for some reason, since Jade and Vincent have left, I have stayed put by the window, or in the tiny square of wooden floor in the centre. In doing so I feel like I’m skirting away from the edges, avoiding the part that I’m not used to.
But maybe there is quite a logical reason. As I sit writing this, room restored to an equilibrium between living room and installation, sun streaming in the window, I realise that during installation the spot which I am sitting in –the one I most often occupy– was continually used to deposit tools and wrappings. It was the one part of the room that did not move; the part the exhibition did not try to extend into: the ignored space and therefore the corner where ephemeral materials were temporarily moved.
Now the need of tools and materials are gone, potential works to be hung have been brought back to Paris, and this corner is once more free to occupy. So maybe, in a sense, it’s kind of fitting that it is this corner of the room that I migrate back to, rather than sitting on the carpet. Situated at the edge of the room, it is the corner from which most of the exhibition can be viewed: a place to be in the room without necessarily acting in it. A place from which to observe, one from which the room can be viewed as another space created by Jade and Vincent. I look at the room’s composition: it’s kind of occupied, kind of empty. Objects show movement but with no body present. The objects and the installation bring together different movements, spaces and intentions. Kind of constructed. Partly lived in. A cross between Jade’s inhabited spaces and Vincent’s empty ones. A collaboration.