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thick sleep

19 Feb

The 3am frost crackles on my face, the scant ice crunches underneath my feet. My heart is beating too fast already; the cold is threatening, and I am in an alleyway hoping that I have found the right house. A back porch light comes on at the house as I approach, not accusingly or harshly, but with a gracious fade up, and the cellar door, heavy, small-seeming and still in some darkness waits to be opened. My mouth and hand stick for a moment, then lift. Cramped stairs lead to the foundations, another closed door waits. A crack of light, a turn of a knob and I’m in.

This is Miranda Trimmier’s installation “thick sleep“, which takes the idea of the “house show” to a wholly different place. Tonight is the last night to view this installation, open from 9pm to 4am, which means there may be a crowd, which would be a totally different dynamic than the intensely personal and psychic solitude that the work evoked during a clandestine trip in the wee hours of the morning. In an ordinary basement – no, wait, not ordinary, a space entirely coated in an unnatural icy blue magnifying all the odd additions, the cramped angles and uneven floors – small handmade objects crop up like little fragments of midnight dreams. Dark brown and ginger hair and fur grow, are trapped in cracks, tiny white felt pillows form odd lines and grouping, tiny silver beans wait to be planted or are held in felt pouches swung from the rafters like oversize drops of very pregnant dew.

Taken as a whole and in context, these tiny objects form some conceptual marriage between the fur-covered teacup of Meret Oppenheim, with its playfulness and tweaked domesticity and the grey felted mythologies of Joseph Beuys, with all of their political portentousness. I found myself captivated by their stillness in the flickering of the naked bulbs in their fixtures, questioning their origin, admiring their economy. The flight of stairs leading up to a locked door brought to mind the enormous installation by Gregor Schneider, Totes Haus u r, in which Schneider recreated an inverted maze of his artists squat, weighting it with all sorts of memorial bric-a-brac “thick sleep” moves more lightly, more fleetingly, more personally than that terrifying accretion, more of an echo than a shouting chamber. In the emptiness, I thought of Mike Kelley, the way he transformed old familiar wool, the way he dissected family, history and the home, and there in the cold, I thought of his suicide.

Even there in solitude though, other people were continuously present. My mind raced with the thought of other people coming to see the show. How would I present myself? What would we say? How loudly? How would I explain myself to them? For as little as actually is in that underground box, one might be tempted to call it minimalist. But any time the movement and reverberations of a house, the idea of home, of trespass, of the construction of our psyche, our own emotions and fears become the subject of a work of art, the effect is emotionally maximalist. Leaving, then, took an act of decisiveness and courage and despite the bitterness of the cold, it was a warm benediction to see the back porch light graciously shine the way forward.

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