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Marvin Touré
,
the blood is the water.
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Catalina Schliebener Muñoz
,
Deep, Deep Woods
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Isla Hansen
,
How to Get to Make Believe
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Andrea Peña
,
States of Transmutation
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Asim Waqif
,
Assume the Risk
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Shohei Katayama
,
As Below, So Above
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The Mattress Factory is an artist-centered museum, international residency program and renowned producer and presenter of installation art. We say “yes” to artists, offering time and space to dream and realize projects in our hometown, Pittsburgh, PA. We invite audiences from around the world and around the corner to step inside, immerse and connect with the artistic process.

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For As Seen From the Surface, Bullock brings her archive to life – projecting small videos interspersed with diagrammatic drawings drawn from books and her videos/photographs, all in a geometric pattern that references the Didactic Chart. These galleries function as both observatory and library and works will be added throughout the exhibition’s run. Together the elements form a new cabinet of curiosities for the infinitesimal. There is symmetry in seeing the videos and drawings together as they tell a story of experience followed by the sometimes fruitless need to understand what just occurred. The shimmering graphite of the drawings catch the light, while the vellum’s transparency and buoyancy allow them to flutter as we pass by, like a leaf shaking in the wind. To complement these subtly didactic moments, Bullock occasionally adds text to her videos that may also feature in the drawings. One clip of an oil slick on a puddle (what Vladimir Nabokov once dubbed “asphalt’s parakeet”) is accompanied by the words, “In the microcosm of her own visual world she worshiped the macrocosm of the universe.”

The inclusion of “she” here offers the opportunity for Bullock to tell us her stories and to merge the personal with the universal. Previously her texts came from field guides and science books, but now her own observations intervene, such as “She stopped using one journal for ‘poetry’ and another for ‘facts.’ With this phrase, Bullock invites us in and reminds us, as Wallace Stevens wrote: “It is not every day that the world arranges itself into a poem.”

-Denise Markonish

For Do this while I wait, Rosenberg concentrates on the character of Annette, an artist with a day job who can only spend eight hours a week in her studio due to her work schedule (a case of fact bleeding into fiction as Rosenberg, like all of us, aims to find balance amidst life's obligations). Annette spends as much time making objects as she does listening to guided meditation audio files on her phone. These meditations create a narrative in which domestic cleaning objects are the key to decluttering her mental landscape. In the novel, Rosenberg writes: “In her meditations household cleaning equipment took on supernatural powers for energetic maintenance. How depressing she found her imagination for transcendent object conjuring; an unending accumulation of brooms, sponges, drain catchers and exhaust pipes filled up her pathway to spiritual oneness.”

For the Mattress Factory, Rosenberg exhibits the objects that Annette has been making – some she has written about and others are made on behalf of the character and remain as yet unwritten. And what are these objects exactly? They are hybrids, much like Annette: shredded books or cast crow’s feet become broom bristles, a lamp becomes formless, a pillowcase becomes a bucket, and ceramic spaghetti turns into a mop. These transmutations get at the heart of how we tend to care for objects rather than ourselves or other humans and how this is further complicated when the imaginary becomes material and vice versa. Rosenberg, us visitors, and the objects alike, all become form and emptiness, like a 21st century Miss Havisham, of who Charles Dickens wrote: “But, I saw that everything within my view which ought to be white, had been white long ago, and had lost its luster, and was faded and yellow.” In Rosenberg’s work the world doesn’t yellow (lemons aside) but it frays at the edges while tenuously keeping its grasp on the material reality within a world of words.

-Denise Markonish

Clayton and Lewis continue their ongoing exploration of archaeology in The Museum Collects Itself, which focuses on the perceived antiseptic space of the museum, one seemingly free of dust or garbage. For the 10-months of their exhibition, Clayton and Lewis reveal the white cube's lack of pristine, by diverting the museum’s waste stream to the Monterey Annex first floor. The gallery begins empty, and as trash is accumulated, it is brought into the space. 91 trash and recycling bins are collected daily from the administrative and museum spaces of the Mattress Factory. All but biohazard and food waste will accrete in Clayton and Lewis’s exhibition to be sorted by the entire staff of the museum from the director to the docents, creating what the artists refer to as “an ever-evolving accumulation, forming piles into dunes, dunes into hills, slowly filling the space.”

By collecting 10-months of trash they make cultural waste evident, while aestheticizing the discarded in an installation – sorting, baling, and piling into the gallery, as visitors traverse the material via diminishing pathways. This conjures Man Ray and Marcel Duchamp, Dust Breeding (1920), in which the dust gathered on Duchamp’s “Large Glass” was photographed by Man Ray in a bird’s eye view. It is accumulation made visible, a nod to the Readymade, and an imaginary map of a forgotten city. After dust breeds and garbage piles up, Clayton and Lewis’s gallery ends as it started: empty. Perhaps we will be left with a deeper understanding of what happens behind the scenes or will imagine hovering above the installation to see the topography of the Mattress Factory’s waste, a place “under the last dust.”

-Denise Markonish

In her first solo exhibition in the US, HalfDream: Another Room, Doreen Chan (b. 1987, Hong Kong) finds in dreams a poetic medium for identifying possibilities of human connection and a communal language. As the title of her show expresses, for Chan dreams provide another room–“a space that is real for the dreamer, not fake,” in her words, or illusionary–but is instead a tangible, psychological realm that allows for a better understanding of how individual experiences, personal memories, major life changes, and daily routines, are shared by others. Further, by working through them, a person’s dreams can make a concrete impact in their perception–of relationships or the past–altering the course of healing or shaping new trajectories.

This ongoing participatory project grew out of a body of work that began as a response to Chan’s vivid, rapid dreaming in the context of the political climate in 2019 where the artist grew up in Hong Kong. Following the stay-at-home order period of the COVID-19 pandemic, the artist’s consideration of dreams morphed into HalfDream. This project explores commonalities at a time of political polarization–how psychological experiences and very real states of instability, displacement, and isolation, recur throughout the unconscious inner worlds of many. Removing herself or a particular city as the central protagonist in this exhibition, Chan sets into motion a system for gathering and sharing the ephemeral, idiosyncratic dreams of the collective, transforming them into artwork with the participants, and asking visitors to reflect on their own dream memories.

During her residency in Pittsburgh, Chan has worked closely with local groups and classrooms, forming meaningful collaborations that created opportunities for intimacy among people with seemingly disparate backgrounds. For Chan, this collaborative engagement is the fundamental material of the work itself: comprised of the trust and exploratory conversations forged over the course of the project. While her HalfDream works incorporate an online component with anonymous contributions, the artist parses and pairs the individual dreams herself. The resulting exhibition situates the viewer decidedly between the physical and immaterial, personal and collective.

The installation on view, including new work in video, sound, and sculpture as well as social-practice, brings together dream content from eleven “dreamers,” as Chan describes the participants in her work who function less as subjects than as active collaborators. In a three-channel, interactive video, three of these individuals revisit, express, and analyze important relationships, from childhood trauma to potential loss of a friendship. Here, Chan assumes the role of facilitator and mixologist, inviting participants to talk through their dream content and associations through visceral blends evoking related places, smells, and tastes. One dreamer talks about a move from mainland China to Chicago and the distance from home over a concoction of brandy, garlic, and chili oil, reminding the dreamer of her father.

Other parts of the show take the form of abstract sculptures and wall-based works that fuse dream landscapes held in common by multiple participants: an underwater location marked by a glass window or fish tank; an ambiguous melding of sunrise and sunset; a feeling of sitting on a bench between two individuals whether known or strangers. “Is somebody else here? And who are they?” is a suspicion that runs throughout, as the irregular curvature of a seat suggests a missing body, or the sound of footsteps from the ceiling above reminds us we are not alone. Embedded within this sentiment are stories incorporating humor and grief, family relationships, and the passage of time.

These themes have occupied the artist’s practice regarding her own personal world, but here they shift into deeply considered conversations with others. Throughout the exhibition, dreams become a common language to communally make sense of social events, everyday phenomena, or tragedy. Using structural materials like resin, acrylic, and wood to create the subtlest alterations expected in objects reminiscent of a clock, a bench, a bookshelf, Chan’s sculptural and multi-media installation refuses to mimic qualities of dreaminess, but instead suggests an evocative laboratory for engaging that which evades, and connects, all of us.

HalfDream: Another Room will be on view through fall 2023. During the run of the exhibition Chan will return to Pittsburgh and invite some dreamers to revisit their submissions and create artworks based on their dreams with her in the gallery. To participate, share your dreams on HalfDream.org. 

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