Mattress Factory’s New Factory Installed Exhibit Features Fellowship Boys, Folk Dance and More | Visual arts | Pittsburgh
The show takes visitors through several levels of the main building of Mattress Factory on the north side of Pittsburgh to see the works of five different artists. The national roster includes Chicago duo Luftwerk, multimedia installation artist Andréa Stanislav and Jeffrey Augustine Songco, a Carnegie Mellon University alumnus from New Jersey. There are also Thai artist Sarawut Chutiwongpeti and Meir Tati, an Israeli artist whose work occupies MF’s basement.
As I descend from the elevator to the fourth floor, I am greeted by an upside down, headless, spinning horse sculpture, part of Stanislav’s installation.
In her biography, Stanislav – a Russian-born artist who divides her time between St. Petersburg, New York and Bloomington, Indiana – says her work “exploits cultural histories to question and reflect the present and the future through a lens. which mixes beauty, horror and the unexpected. ” It appears in “Surmatants – Mars Rising,” a large-scale 360-degree video piece that surrounds visitors with scenes from the local folk dance group the Tamburitzans in traditional attire reminiscent of the 2019 hit horror film. Middle.
These are interspersed with shots of industrial ruins around Pittsburgh, providing a beautifully choreographed, shot and edited commentary on the sacrifice made by Slavic immigrants forced to abandon their culture to work in local steel mills and assimilate into American customs. .
Due to the way the projections work, visitors cast shadows on the film, integrating them into the film. In this way, Stanislav poses the question of how we lose all cultural ties with the demands of capitalism and progress, in fact becoming more homogenized over the generations.
This dizzying work is completed by Luftwerk, whose “Open Square” installation recalls a familiar sci-fi aesthetic from the 1960s and 1970s. Visitors are drawn to geometric shapes and lights that shift and alter the searing neon colors of the room, like a carnival house passing by 2001: A Space Odyssey. This, combined with the works of Stanislav, gives the fourth floor a Twin peaks intoxicating atmosphere in its dreamlike strangeness and hypersensory indulgence.
Visitors will find respite in Chutiwongpeti’s “Wishes, Lies and Dreams >> The Journey into the Invisible World”, which offers a minimalist palette cleaner to its gallery mates. But the various elements – including a massive, hanging wooden sculpture and an antique sewing machine – offer their own subtle surprises. The sculpture acts like a Jules Verne-style spaceship made from reclaimed barn wood, and the sewing machine defies its true purpose by acting as a video console, resulting in work that imagines more potential in the mundane and discarded. This plays into the description of the work as questioning what happens when life ends, as saved materials find immortality through reinvention.
The third floor offers the shiny banners, award plaques and dazzling belts of Songco’s “Society of 23’s Trophy Game Room”. The highly detailed installation builds up a mock fraternity occupied by the artist playing several “brothers,” the methodically decorated space – with her posed photos Instagram-ready, mall fashion, and beer pong kit – serving as a sanctuary to their various false achievements. Based on Songco’s own experience as a member of an academic fraternity, the play uses this world to explore how the desire to belong requires self-denial, particularly in American culture. (In a previous Pittsburgh City Paper article, Songco explained how he struggled with his identity as a Filipino American who identifies as gay.)
Last but not least is Tati’s “A New Tomorrow That Starts Today”. With its giant backlit faces, all of which are made up of Frankenstein’d features from various world leaders, and a central video work, the installation takes full advantage of its dark and brooding basement environment.
The article uses elements of comic book culture to explore the idea of how controversial political figures, including former US President Donald Trump, Russian Vladimir Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, are either glorified or vilified by the citizens. This goes through Political mutants, a 1984-like a video featuring a pair of disembodied lips reciting edited monologues from various comic works, as well as a series of rubber masks that wouldn’t look out of place in a superhero Halloween costume exhibit. The work appeals with its grotesque imagery and questions about how world politics are governed by personality cults. (It’s worth noting that the video comes with corresponding images of an American Sign Language interpreter, which I found a thoughtful touch.)
The mattress factory has undergone a major change in recent years, rocked by controversy, the subsequent departure of its longtime leader and reorganization. Despite this, the North Side space has managed to put on some exciting shows, including the Jennifer Angus and Shikeith exhibits currently featured in its Monterey annex. With this latest crop of factory-installed works, the museum has clearly not failed to beat.
Mattress factory: 500, chemin Samsonia, north side. mattress.org