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Site-symbiotic Configuration
Larissa Lockshin's BAD DREAM HOUSE

Bad Dream House, by New York-based artist Larissa Lockshin, presents the viewer with an immersive installation sited and developed for the American Institute of Thoughts and Feelings. The installation is comprised of works that have been produced for AITF's interior gallery– a spaceindependently entitled Underground Bureau of Investigations–a small basement room under a house in Tucson, AZ.

The hanging of Lockshin's work regularly attends to site in unexpected ways, particularly as an alternative to traditional gallery spaces. Importantly, she has an affinity for unconventional locations. She has displayed work at a shuffleboard court in Florida, underwater in a Hawaiian lagoon, and on the sandy beach at Dead Horse Bay in New York—Each of these presentations took place out of doors and in group contexts. It is no accident that she has endeavored to place her works within the landscape–giving the works allowance to adopt a certain state of itinerancy, unfettering from prevailing systems of value and modes of display. Each of these sites can be interpreted as framing the objects they host as: Ludic (the shuffleboard court), lost treasure (the lagoon), and time capsulesque (Dead Horse Bay, a 19th Century landfill, regularly visited by those interested in picking up artifacts washed ashore), respectively.I.

While Lockshin has often sited her work outside of the conventional bounds of the gallery space, Bad Dream House marks her first presentation of a sited and hermetic environment, in that it addresses the boundaries of the architecture as well as the structure’s location within the landscape.

Perhaps Claire Bishop's terminology “psychologically absorptive” is applicable to Lockshin's installation at AITF.II. The title, Bad Dream House, very clearly invokes a scenario wherein all images are solely products of unconscious psychological activity. Lockshin’s installation straddles “psychological absorption” with one foot on its material considerations and the other on conceptual oscillation. The handicraft exhibited in the artist's works– the composition of the corset, beading, etc.–engages the viewer by its imagined tactility and clarity of construction, while the two-dimensional works also present a complex array of referents to decipher. These referents confounding viewers’ parallel expectations of authorship, source material and objecthood. On one side direct engagement is solicited, and on the other it is disrupted. It is with this simultaneous projection that her installation provides entry to the viewer.

Lockshin describes Bad Dream House as articulating “resemblance in an unsettling way.” It is unclear from the start whether her installation is a sort of replica–either that from her own dream, or one proposed to the viewer. It is identifiable as a domestic space, or semblance thereof, housing familiar objects including a lamp, an article of clothing and wall works whose creations are seemingly transparent, lending an aire of the decorative.

The exhibition coalesces in one work, a variable sculpture and working lamp, that rests within a small architectural recess in the basement wall. The bulb is illuminated, casting a dim, yellow light into the space–competing with the cool white of the overhead fluorescent fixture. The lamp rests on a small layer of sparkling, black salt which expands to the edges of the alcove's floor (the salt and light’s cast are the only details of the presentation that are variably expansive). The lamp shade's circumference is adorned with hanging glass beads, and its surface contains the support for an inverted panoramic painting. The painting, similar in its style of execution to the charcoal drawings on the opposite side of the room, depicts a colorful scene–devoid of figure–conflating an interior domestic space with an exterior landscape. The inverted panorama, illuminated from within, distills the affective components each of the other works on view. Its placement inside of the recess presents it as dioramic–a replica of the space of the entire installation, once removed.

The insinuation of an inhabitable diorama attests to the equal importance given to the site, the installed works and their relationships to one another. The elements merge in this symbiosis; its hermetic and dioramic nature is intertwined with the site. The building overhead is incorporated into the presence of the installation, its contents and their arrangement are inaccessible, but are constructed in the mind of the viewer as if Lockshin’s works – domestic-seeming objects– have been re-sited from the traditionally domestic space above.

Lockshin's model of installation finds itself at home within the constraints of an atypical project space–one that is lacking level three drywall finish and super or ultra-white matte paint, as those which mimic commercial galleries and institutional settings. The basement hosting the Underground Bureau of Investigations is itself raw; its walls are irregular in shape and finish, electrical outlet is left without cover, a small hole in the ceiling evidences previous infrastructure, segments of brick are exposed behind the stucco that is falling away, and a single, newly installed, fluorescent fixture lights the small space.III. The space is not climate controlled, yet due to its elevation and the insulation provided by the earth, the temperature difference is is immediately noticeable. The cool white light of the fluorescent is dramatically contrasted by the bright Arizona sun. These are unique, ambient conditions of the display site are not only considered, but leveraged within the installation to further its own ends. The singular rawness of AITF's gallery, coupled with the ambient conditions of its location are seized upon and then internalized by the logic of the installation.

In Lockshin's case, Bad Dream House conjoins with its location in such a way that facilitates it becoming sculptural, or at very least as an essential sculptural component within the matrix of the installation. The installation's site is experienced in the same moment as the configuration of her works, and is prerequisite to that experience. This is at the heart of the symbiosis of the site and her configuration–its inextricable relationship to the works–that allows the site to effectively cross over into the sculptural. The “house” described in the title is not the space the viewer experiences while standing in the gallery, but the one above it. This model of site-symbiotic configuration provides equal footing to the totality of the location and placement of the individual works, with their relationships forming along conceptual control joints.IV.

Lockshin's willingness to allow her works to become independent facilitators of meaning within the world at large is connoted, not only by her publicly sited works, but here by the presence of their titles and the temporal conditions of the hang. She opts for their framing as individual works by their titling. In this installation the titles are textual details, and do not themselves provide for psychological adsorption as the viewer is confronted with the environment in its entirety. However, they do slyly present an intentional weakness within the configuration as a controlled point–a place of rupture from the inevitable explosion of the works back into a multitude of contexts. The operation holding the configuration in place–its independent linkages to one another and to its site–is rigid, so that when the break does come, the silhouettes of each fissure are incorporated as conceptually bounding elements to each of the displaced works.

-Nathaniel Hitchcock, 2018


Throughout her practice, Lockshin consistently cultivates a spatial awareness in the viewer through materials and their relationships to the body. Evidenced in her 2014 solo exhibition in New York, Close But No Cigar, the smaller of the two galleries was dedicated to her most recognizable series comprised of oil stick on stretched satin. The display comprised of seven rectilinear works hung in a “U” shape at 60” to center, with immediate and playful references to the more immersive properties of Monet's Water Lilies. In this presentation, the materials initiate movement by proximity; each mark a colorful, matte mask interrupting the sheen of the satin ground, distorting and blocking the hotspots of light reflected on the surface. (Grau, Oliver. Virtual Art: From Illusion to Immersion. MIT Press, 2003. p141)

Bishop uses the term to describe early works that take Sigmund Freud's theories as foundational. Lockshin's disinterest in Freud and his theory is par for the course in 2018. Even still, Bishop's description is useful in describing the affective presence of the installation on the whole. In Ilya Kabakov's terms, Bishop describes 'psychological absorption' as 'engulfing' and 'engrossing'–the effect of the 'total installation,' and akin to 'reading a book, watching a film, or dreaming.' (Bishop, Claire. Installation Art, A Critical History. London: Tate, 2005. 14)

In this context the fungibility of the display conditions are typified by the art-run space–a long history beginning (in the West) with the viewing of Casper David Friedrich's Cross in the Mountains (Tetschen  Alter) (1808) at his apartment, to the African-American Yard Shows of the U.S. South from the late-1800s continuing through the Twentieth Century, and the Apartment Art movement in China during the 1970s and 1980s.(Wamberg, Jacob. Landscape as World Picture. Tracing Cultural Evolution in Images. Aarhus: Aarhus University Press, 2009.) (Arnett, Paul, and William Arnett, eds. Souls Grown Deep: African American Vernacular Art. Vol. 1. 2 vols. Atlanta, GA: Tinwood Books, 2000.) (Gao, Minglu. Apartment Art in China 1970s-1990s: The Ecology of Post-Cultural Revolution Frontier Art. Beijing: Shuimu Art Space, 2008. Shi Yong exhibition catalog)

In the construction of concrete sidewalks, it is standard to include jointing at regular distances. “Control joints” are defined by an intentional cut–one quarter the depth of the slab and spanning its width. These cuts allow for a large slab of concrete to be poured in place in one motion and protect each segment from uncontrolled fracturing. Instead, fractures will tend to happen at the weakest points, where the cuts have been made. This not only minimizes the steps of construction, but also enables the replacement of damaged spans in a materially conservative manner. The control joint is defined by the full slab's inevitable decay as the material responds to the environment around it–temperatures, moisture, ground shifts, barometric pressure etc.–in conjunction with its continued maintenance and use value.