If I Saw You On the Street, Would I Have You In My Dreams Tonight?
Updated: Feb 27, 2021
Postcrypt Art Gallery’s “Bedroom Show.”
By Sophie Poole.
I fell through the sky, brushing past clouds. The gallery, unbound by gravity, faded away from me. It shrank until, with a pop, it disappeared from my screen. “Dreams Tonite” by Antisocialite played quietly, broadcast onto my computer through a concurrent Zoom. This is art now, I thought, as I drifted down. I refreshed the page and reappeared, magically restored to the entrance point for Postcrypt Art Gallery’s online exhibition, Bedroom Show.
Powered by the game engine Unity, the show explores virtual reality. Lead engineer Bietu Seah, CC ‘23, and her fellow Postcrypt board members—Katrina Fuller, BC ‘22; Katerina Millner, BC ‘23; Olivia Tutuska, CC ‘23; and Habiba Odogba, CC ‘23—built the space expressly for Bedroom Show. As a platform, Unity offered few creative constraints. “It can be very overwhelming because you can basically make anything,” noted Seah. “You have so much freedom you normally wouldn’t have in a show. [In person], you can’t decide what size a room is, how you want the room to look, the walls.”
Recalling past in-person exhibitions in the basement of St. Paul’s Chapel, Millner noted that the virtual format precipitated “more forethought” in the show’s curation. Postcrypt members began with a digital tabula rasa, ultimately rendering an online arthouse at once dreamlike and nightmarish from the ground up. Theirs is a world of glass houses and crumpled duvets, where physics is irrelevant and art floats in midair.
Six structures built atop a checkerboard dance in the clouds. One room, covered entirely in verdant grass, houses “a trip to the underworld” by Carlos Sánchez-Tatá, CC ‘24. Sánchez-Tatá paints himself reclining on a couch, blankly staring at his phone’s screen. Wispy tendrils escape from the phone and press against the purple wall in the background, indicating the rapidly narrowing distinction between the digital and natural world. Set against a wall covered in pixelated grass, Postcrypt relentlessly asks: How can we separate from the digital world when, increasingly, sharing our artwork depends on it? I touched the up arrow to move closer and pressed my index finger onto my trackpad to adjust my gaze. I glanced outside my window at the rainfall, then returned to the artwork on these digitally-rendered walls.
At first, I navigated the exhibit clumsily. My eyes remained trained on my keyboard, rather than the exhibition projected upon my screen. Slowly, though, I found my (virtual) sea legs. I glimpsed Evie Hall’s photograph “Mother and Father” hanging on the second floor and ascended the ramp, zooming toward the image. The subjects—middle-aged, rigidly propped up in bed, costumed in traditional business-wear—stare ahead, both at the viewer and at the black-and-white photograph of Annie Farrell’s, BC ’21, bedroom hanging on the opposite wall. Text figured in duct tape above the mattress pleads, “Why don’t u love me outside the bedroom?” Her empty four-poster memorializes the pain of a romantic relationship in transition. Together, Hall’s and Farrell’s photographs construct the neatly white-dressed bed as a sign of intimacy, as easily lost as it is found behind closed bedroom doors.
On the January 21st Zoom call celebrating the launch of the exhibition, a guest wrote in the chat, “I just jumped off the second floor.” Seeing this, I followed suit, floating away from the dual depictions of tortured togetherness. “Here ya go, some mazzy,” typed Sonia Kahn, CC ‘22, the Postcrypt board member running the Zoom event. Mazzy Star’s “Five String Serenade” filtered through 50-odd bedrooms. In an attempt to replicate the atmosphere of a gallery, Kahn encouraged her guests to chat, drink, share their locations, and change their virtual backgrounds to bedroom-esque images. One participant changed their background to a bedroom plastered with tweeny-bopper One Direction posters; another sat before an image of Britney Spears, sans blonde locks, wielding an umbrella to fend off paparazzi.
A glass house, one of the individual structures in the greater exhibition, is a far cry from a dimly-lit basement on campus. The art appears pinned to the sky, suspended above a white-duvet floor that complements the clouds. Sun-streaked, lethargic portraits of peaceful sleepers, shot by Lola Lafia, CC ‘22, contrast with Hall’s and Farrell’s depictions of the bedroom as a fraught place. Ester Petukhova’s collage titled “To Be Nineteen and Obsolete” sways in the virtual breeze. Petukhova, a second-year at Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Art, who, according to her artist statement, fled Russia with her family in 2001, has always shared a bedroom with a sibling. In her collage, fallen letters litter the page. One word emerges amid the chaos: “girl.” Petukhova relates the découpage form to the impact of migration on her psyche. In this room, the bedroom plays host to fractalized memories made whole, afternoon naps, girlhood, and jumping on a nicely-made bed.
Another building, constructed with opaque white bricks, unearths the bedroom’s “hellish” aspect. “Cryingggg,” an aptly-named monochrome drawing by Shori Sims, a third-year at Carnegie Mellon’s School of Art, features a young girl shedding oversized tears. Another drawing by Hart Hallos, CC ‘23, depicts an open window with birds invading a bedroom, unsettling illusions of privacy. Empty shelves and dusty picture frames decorate the room, questioning how closely the artifacts in a given space reflect the person who sleeps in its bed. Evoking the nighttime, both illustrations play with shadow and muted colors. Sims and Hallos demonstrate that, once the sun goes down, the bedroom invites the terrors of imagination inside.
This question of imagination underlies “Bedroom Show.” Evidently, the bedroom—a place we wake, work, create, scroll mindlessly, find and lose intimacy, sleep, dream—summons myriad meanings. The digital construction of the exhibition and the artwork within it reflect the mosaic-like quality of living during this time: online, offline, or some space in between. At the conclusion of the Zoom event, after the attendees had explored the gallery and artists shared their inspiration, there took place a veritable “boogie,” as Kahn called it. Music played and people danced, all sweating, singing, and jumping in their respective bedrooms. And briefly, all of ours morphed into one—a shared space to witness art, meet people from around the world, and boogie our bedridden hearts out.