Camerawork

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Same/Difference

Camerawork
Vol. 29, No. 2
by Marisa S. Olson

Same / Difference calls attention to the unique, subjective experiences that mark hotel rooms, in opposition to the stark sameness of these pseudo-domestic zones. The artists included unravel the uniformity of the hotel space by projecting narrative fantasies onto our reading of a vacant room and commenting on our inability to communicate with others who have inhabited the same space. Visitors to the hotel can check out a key and view work ranging from video and photography to site-specific audio and textile installations.

Tommy Becker has taken over the room's bathroom with a video installation creating an eerily comic narrative about communication in relationships. Props from his video take on a new life in the room, creating a disjunction between the space of the narrative and the space in which it is experienced. Thomas Chang shows two images from his Decadence series, exploring he often-absurd efforts of "four-star hotel proprietors to decorate every inch o of their commercial space. Heather Johnson documents her travels through photographs, text, and textile sculptures. Johnson, has made these documents of exteriority site specific by embroidering the room's lines, and other objects, with words and images related to travel, transience, and hotel space.

Through the use of the room's phone, Jeff Karolski invites participants to be telegraphed into a highly intimate space. Forwarding his own personal answering machine messages for the length of the installation, Karolski transforms the hotel room's voicemail box into a living record of one person's life.

Laura Larson shows two photos from her newest series on "dirty" hotel rooms, where the generic nature of the spaces is overwritten by the mysterious personal traces left after check-out. Geof Oppenheimer condenses personal living space to the confines of a t-shirt. Hanging in the roomÕs closet are t-shirts printed with slogans a la the generic "I love New York." Embodying the Same/Difference theme, the shirts are printed in a mass-produced style, yet their messages imply an investment in "uniqueness" and imbue a portability to the materially-constructed identity.

Graham Parker's slide installations, Diogenes and Barnum, document the artist's reinterpretation of anecdotal accounts of moments in history. In the desk drawer are printing blocks, ink, and notepads on which visitors can print excerpted myths about Irish playboy soccer star, George Best. This will be the first of an ongoing series made on notepaper from hotels at which the artist has stayed making messy, physical, and local the portable meme of international anecdote. Sam Kraus displays fifty identical antique keys, within a vintage suitcase, each fictionally-linked to a unique hotel. The keys are meant to reflect the seemingly machine-made, sterile, anonymous side of hotels, juxtaposed with the subjective, mysterious ways that visitors use hotel rooms.