'Slow Room' Pulls Viewers Into A World Of Creativity And Destruction

Apr 19, 2017

You may wonder whose home you’ve wandered into when visiting a particular corner of the Mint Museum in uptown. A new installation making its Charlotte debut this weekend is a space full of grandma’s old furniture and knickknacks. But there’s a catch: what looks like an inviting and still, livingroom is actually slowly moving toward a path of destruction. WFAE’s Sarah Delia has this story.

Walk up to Jonathan Schipper’s installation Slow Room, and it feels like you’ve walked onto the set of a retro TV sitcom or your grandmother’s living room. There’s a pink couch, comfy arm chairs, a grandfather clock, a china cabinet full of assorted glassware and a sewing machine with a piece of fabric under the needle poised for a project. Pink flowered wallpaper outlines the boundaries of the room. It looks frozen in time like someone just stepped out to make a cup of tea.

It's modeled after an average American living room which sounds nice enough. But the New York based artist says, there's a twist: 

"Every item in the room is connected with a string to a large winch that sits on the other side of a small hole," Schipper says. "Once the exhibition starts everything will start moving into the hole at a very slow rate. Everything starts out in a high state of order where we have been careful to arrange all the items. And then everything will be slowly crushed."

Objects will be pulled about a quarter of an inch per hour during museum hours. There are a few hundred strings connected to the items in the room.

The duration of the exhibit is about four and half months long. Which may seem painstakingly slow. 

"Painstakingly slow, yes. But compared to a lot of things it’s fast. Everything is in motion," Schipper says. "This piece noticing the motion around us that we don’t notice is there. Everything is in flux and this idea that we can take things and make them static and control them is really not true."

Like all good art does, Schipper hopes this piece will make people think.

"It’s easy to be melancholy about the piece because it’s like destruction and death. But then in my mind it’s easy to be positive too," Schipper says. "It’s like the act of creation is inherent, is destruction. That’s the way I tend to look at it. You can go either way."

Schipper points out every piece of art has an element of destruction. It’s a part of the creative process that no one ever sees by the time the artwork makes it to the museum. Slow Room attempts to raise the veil on that creative process.

As the exhibit nears its end, it will get…louder. The china cabinet will shatter. And all those little knickknacks will be dragged and roll across the floor. 

This is the sixth time Schipper has created the Slow Room, the first one was in Berlin. He uses objects from thrift stores to cut down on the costs.

He tries not to get too attached to any of the objects although he did take out a painting he fell in love with one time. He points out it was of a lizard and didn’t really go with the whole grandma vibe of the room.

One of his favorite pieces is a portrait that’s been used several times. It’s of a young woman with blonde hair looking off, maybe at someone making her smile. Schipper says when he found this portrait, he thought, this could be the person the room could belong to.

And even though he tries not to get attached there are objects that he gets sad about, knowing they will be destroyed. He’s included a piano in the Slow Room before, and it was be hard to say goodbye to.

"Pianos are sad. They aren’t that wanted anymore. I bought the piano for $5 in a room full of pianos that were all $5. People don't play music at home anymore," he says. "Nothing I can do about it, I don’t have room to bring all the pianos home."

There are no pianos in this version of the Slow Room at the Mint. But he does eye a grandfather clock that’s swaying against the wall. It’s been keeping him and the museum staff company as they’ve worked to set up the room. And it’s a reflection of the time that’s past and chaos to come.