‘What was your first dream?’
—I can’t remember.
A precursor and pervading question greeting participants on a quiet, darkened Maple Street prior to the ascent into Think Tank Gallery’s presentation of Rough Sleeper last week. With performances over two days, Rough Sleeper was one of many site-specific events occurring within the 30-day installation Break Bread by artists Scott Hove and Baker’s Son. An immersive presentation conceived by Arya Davachi and Henry Conklin, Rough Sleeper induced participants ‘to be an integral part of an unprecedented psychological study,’ an exploratory experience delving into the study of dreams. Entering the first stage of this research project, the audience assembled in the main room: a rose-lit chamber introducing us to the ‘Psychiatrist’ and ‘Subject’— the latter asleep and strewn within a four-poster bed lined with a foliage canopy.
From here, the audience was directed to roam adjacent chambers at their own will—each representative of the Subject’s various states of subconscious. Entering visceral encounters accentuated with well-acted narratives— and perpetually discomforting direct eye-contact with performers— we wandered through a series of enticing predicaments. A ‘Cage Room’ trapped in barred existential crisis… an interactive ‘Screen Room’ where LED’s dissolved from flickering flames to wavering pool … a room pitting us within a floor-to-ceiling iced cake… catching glances of our mirrored reflection throughout this timed journey. For the last act, viewers were corralled to rejoin our initial cast— sitting huddled in a room sterile and white like the offices of all my past therapists. A patient-doctor dialect offered insight into our Subject’s broken past, unfolding into an open-ended symposium probing who and what was behind this inner and outer world skepticism; the reasons we the ‘Consumer’ had just paid to insert ourselves in this debate; and left us wallowing within lines of inquiry like ‘is social media sinking over the mind of [our] generation?’
Pondering our own physical representation within compartments where a scripted subconscious could be seen— cleverly created through the recurring triangulation of mirrors for the perfect #artselfie opt— we were dismissed from this psychiatric session to enter the gallery. Here, taking-in the work of Scott Hove and Baker’s Son, the realization that we are not just passers-by but essential participants threading this web of authorship, both in this particular theatrical experience and in the art market itself— where illusive fictions shape an economy of value— sinks in. Archetypes are dissected into humorous dualities in Hove’s work, where faux fruit, switchblades, guns, Swarovski crystals, stilettos, and taxidermy jaws penetrate fluffy, fake frosting piped through a pastry bag using a traditional pâtissier’s technique. Similarly, Baker’s Son melds glossy surfaces of consumption into hyperrealistic paintings teetering between temptation and repulsion. Together, their sprawling 7,500 sq ft cake-maze exudes themes ignited by the products of their individual practices into a 3D sculptural experience.
A bouquet of ticketed special events, from Rough Sleeper, to supper clubs and comedy shows, taking place within this massive installation extend the ‘ethereal, dreamlike’ qualities of Break Bread by propelling the hyperreal into the corporeal. If these tiers of engagement were absent from the impressive spectacle that is Break Bread, it’s difficult to say if implications on culture, consumerism, and the nature of being in an over-monitored and Instagrammable world would appear as scrumptiously dazzling as they are uncannily complex and horrifying. Though Rough Sleeper performances have passed and Saturday marks the last day of Break Bread— with ephemeral cohabitations including a final Cirque du Soleil event served daily— this immersive iteration is only the beginning. Like dreams themselves, Davachi relays this presentation is a fragment and by no means the ‘final product, but rather a thesis for a much larger, flushed out concept.’
All photos © Natalie O’Moore and Baha Danesh.
CURATE LA: March 10-13