Factory Installed at the Mattress Factory features site-specific works by six international artists, who were chosen from more than 600 submissions. These works were created during a two-month residency at the museum, each inspired by the space the work inhabits. These six installations are scattered among the different floors of the museum, mixed in with Mattress Factory’s permanent collection. Since all the works are consistent with the museum’s partiality towards site-specific installation, the works in Factory Installed are difficult to differentiate from the permanent works, unless you have visited the museum previously. Nonetheless, every work in the exhibit has its interesting qualities, and recreated its encompassing space.
The entire 4th floor of the museum featured Factory Installed works, including art by Than Htay Maung, Veronica Ryan, Mariana Manhaes and Pablo Valbuena. Immediately out of the elevator, the walls were covered with repeated cast plaster hands that seemed to reach out from the wall, each with a loaf of bread in their palms. Maung’s installation, My Offering, dealt with the problem of hunger in Burma and the rest of the world affected by war. It was successful in representing the overwhelming number of hungry people in the world; however, the loaves of bread in the hands did not evoke a sense of hope, as much as a sense of desperation and pleading. Perhaps the most complicated in construction of all the pieces was Manhaes’ Thesethose, a large multimedia breathing machine. Various plastic bags of different sizes were hooked up to pvc pipes and electric blowers, that were triggered and synchronized with the movement in a video of the artists’ studio windows. The installation seemed to be a living organism inhabiting the room, with the inflating and deflating, lung-like plastic bags and the sounds they emitted.
In the blacked-out room adjacent to Manhaes’ piece was the crowd pleasing Pablo Valbana light projection, Para-Site. Using light, Valbana was able to bring the space to life, creating a virtual reality. The projection began by tracing the architectural structure of the wall, reminiscent of etch-a-sketch, then morphed into an almost tangible space, receding into a virtual room. It was all very surreal and magical; this was definitely one of the most intriguing and hypnotic installations I have ever seen.
On the other hand, Natalia Gonzalez’s installation in the lower level of the museum left much to be desired. An eclectic combination of steel, lights, wires, mirrors and concrete, Light Recordings had no focal point, and with materials propped up against walls, the room looked very unfinished. The work played with light and shadow, which was somewhat cliché and highly underwhelming. However, taking into account the difficulty of the space Gonzalez was given, she was able to use the dimness and eeriness of the room to her advantage, giving the piece an almost ominous feel.
Overall, the exhibit had its extremely high points, extremely low points and everything in between. No hurry to rush to the Mattress Factory to see the exhibit since it will be up for an awfully long time, until May of next year. Almost half of the pieces are permanent, and the ones from the Factory Installed aren’t too exciting, except for the Valbuena projection piece, which probably saved the entire show.