Aisle Or Window?
Mallery Roberts Morgan -- Interior Design, 7/1/2008 12:00:00 AM
Chairs with red plastic seats. Chairs with bentwood backs. Chairs with wooden slats or leather padding. Artist Hans Schabus borrowed them from locations around London's Barbican Centre—offices, theaters, conference rooms, the café, and the concert hall. Then he strapped all 461 to wall brackets in the arts center's Curve gallery to create an installation called Next Time I'm Here, I'll Be There.
The exhibition space, which wraps the back of the Barbican's concert hall, was originally placed there for acoustical reasons. Schabus just happened to notice that the 260-foot length and 20-foot height of the main wall are roughly the same as the dimensions of a Boeing 747, so he decided to arrange the chairs like airplane seating, in orderly blocks determined by color and type. "For me, sculpture is the organization of material in space," he says. (Other Schabus installations have included a gallery filled with water, a wooden mountain constructed over Josef Hoffmann's Austrian Pavilion at the Biennale di Venezia, and a vast quantity of dirt displaced from outside, on the ground in New Mexico, to inside, at Site Santa Fe.)
Besides providing a kind of taxonomy of the Barbican's furniture history, curator Alona Pardo says, the installation explores the symbolic role that chairs play in our lives: "Oddly, it's the absence of someone sitting in them that conveys the human element." As for the absence of some seating elsewhere in the building during the run of the show, employees and visitors simply played a bit of musical chairs.