The Gladstone Hotel’s Annual Alternative Design Event
February 22-24, 2008
By Brad Pearson
It’s reassuring to be reminded every now and then that the world contains a decent number of original and creative people. After spending the week designing not-so-interesting graphics to promote frozen meat and artificially sweetened dairy products, I was in the mood to really appreciate the kind of statement made by a handcrafted picture frame containing human hair and flashing lights, or a loft bed that resembles a human-sized bird’s nest. This weekend, the 5th annual Come Up To My Room design show at the Gladstone Hotel covered the gamut from the posh and refined to some truly out there (how-much-do-you-spend-on-drugs?) weirdness.
Of course, these creative types are doing their thing all year long in Toronto, but it’s venues like this that pull them out of the woodwork and let us appreciate their stuff. The Gladstone’s mission to be the self-appointed capital of all things artsy, hip and cool in Toronto is a lot easier to stomach when they get it right. Hosting an event like Come Up To My Room goes a long way in that direction. It’s not about that art/design snob thing here; it’s about the free reign of ideas, and coming together to revel in the surprises generated from the intuitive leaps and bounds that make up the creative process. Basically you’ll either be saying “Hey, that’s cool!” a lot, or shaking your head and wondering, “WTF?”, but that’s what makes it fun.
The anything-goes cacophony of ideas isn’t an accident. Curators Pamila Matharu and Christina Zeidler chose participants based on their previous work and then stayed the hell out of their way – you could call it the “mom-and-dad-are-out-of-town” school of curatorship. Participants worked behind closed doors, while the curators had to wait until opening night (like the rest of us) to see what they come up with.
The exhibit is billed as an “alternative design” show, but easy definitions like that probably got thrown out the second floor windows on opening night. They claim the work presented “inhabits the cross-over world between art and design”, and considering they had no idea what the work would be when they wrote the press kit I suppose that’s the best way to describe it. But some definitely falls into one category or the other.
Furniture made from reclaimed materials? Definitely design. An installation of what can only be described as a giant shoebox trap over a fake bed riddled with diorama peepholes? Safe to say that’s art. But lots of stuff falls ambiguously in between, which keeps it interesting. And just to make things really nebulous, Art and Design’s folksy cousin, Craft, shows up in a lot of work, too.
Public spaces and thirteen rooms have taken over the whole floor, resulting in a sizable and eclectic mix of stuff that makes the $6.50 cover more than worthwhile. Hell, while you’re there, grab a drink from the bar and make yourself at home. With a name like Come Up To My Room, you’ve definitely been invited. It’s worth the trip upstairs and, if we play our cards right, these brazen, creative hussies will be inviting us back again next year. Here’s hoping we all get lucky.
PS. BP took all of these photos on his cellphone! Intrepid reporting! -ArtsEd