Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Bang Bang Room

Paul McCarthy's Bang Bang Room (1992) at the 4th Berlin Biennale in 2006 struck me as being a suburban domestic space mainly because of the early seventies wallpaper and the rooms weren’t of grand proportions and suggested the size of a single person's or child's/teenager's bedroom. It also struck a chord because it had the quality of a film/tv/ theatre set that had become disembodied from its purpose or its legitimate home. It made me think of Gregor Schneider's work that resonates with me for his reconfiguring of architectural spaces to create metaphors for psychological familial trauma. I also thought of Fritz Lang's Secret Beyond the Door and it also echos Piranesi’s work in that it's a functionless, surreal space where there are doors in every wall.

When the work heaved into action the rooms came to life and I was struck by the ferocity of the animation of the inanimate. The walls move mechanically to create a closed room space and then open again to reveal the platform/floor inside. At the same time all the doors are banging loudly. An animated room that makes its own noise immediately made me think of horror films that invest in the idea of the agency of the house, or the anthropomorphising of the house. It’s possible, when there is a gap in the walls to stand on the platform and experience the walls pulling together to make a room that you are trapped in momentarily.

The experience of watching the structure is different to standing on the platform. Watching it you can see the mechanisms and hear the sounds and observe the way the piece operates and moves. this makes the piece a bit like a sideshow, as you watch people go into the work its like watching people on rides on the pier and enjoying their fear from your safe-place of observation. It’s tentatively and with the invigilator's reassuring permission that you dodge the closing walls and stand on the internal platform. There is a masochism involved in agreeing to ‘put yourself through it’ and also to know that you can be observed doing this masochistic act. It reminded me of noisy neighbours, being told off for noise as a child, the discomfort of high density living. Bang Bang Room immediately appeals to me because it draws on the idea of the resonance of a place that lingers. Also the repetition of the movements and banging in the work make it powerful, a kind of looping or blind violent fury. The aggression subsides, but we know it will come again. This makes me think of a cycle of abuse, the knowledge that we can do one thing wrong and the aggressor will be set off again.