10 August till 20 September 2011


Review by Suzanne Rietdijk

translation: Pieter de Bruyn Kops

It is an uncommon experience for a regular visitor of Kunsthuis SYB; besides a few chairs standing in front of video screens, and the familiar press releases, there is an expectant emptiness. Only the forward visitor will use the hospitable nature of this space and follow the stairs upwards, where the temporary living space of the artist is. By crossing the line of a respectful guest, the visitor takes the first step into the project ‘The Guest Room’ by Anna Franceschini.

On the first floor, in the living space of Kunsthuis SYB, a private room is opened like a public space. The research that Franceschini has done working with artist David Savorani and guest curator Cecilia Guida unfolds here. An open foldable bed dominates the middle of the room, and on a television, stills of different living spaces follow one another at a high speed: an unmade bed, a sterile bathroom, a stack of books, a collection of plastic birds, light reflecting on a wall. They are silent fragments of private places that belong to different inhabitants of Beetsterzwaag. Fragments of Franceschini’s temporary private place also pass by in this cinematographic collage of spaces. Almost unrecognizable details from the living space of Kunsthuis SYB fall almost undistinguished together with images of interiors from the rest of the village.

A website is beamed on the wall next to the television set. It is the project page of ‘The Guest Room’. Here the written word gets unlimited space via a digital platform (‘Your World of Text’). The image on the wall displays an unstructured series of autonomous sentences, paragraphs, and words. The descriptive strength of the loose texts turn the entirety into a type of free and uncertain film script: “2- int/daylight the scene is set in a cozy corner of a living room…” [sic]1

Across from the television, two tables stand along the wall. A mouse and keyboard lie on one table. Using these tools, it is possible to add a text in real-time to the project page. Everyone can become an integral part of this virtual writer’s community. On the other table lies an array books and texts with a few objects scattered amongst them. The collection is made up of parts of the collections of the artist, Kunsthuis SYB, and the local gift shop. The often quaint objects form a large contrast to the small library of literary artifacts, in which one can find, for example, an Italian edition of ‘Das Passagen-Werk’ by Walter Benjamin.

Above one of the tables there also hangs a series of photos. They are images of Beetsterzwaag, except now it’s not the interior, but the exterior that has been documented. We see, for instance, an abandoned and overgrown plot with a lonely basketball hoop. Each image is, as are the texts on the website, a potential generator of a new thriller.
On the other wall a textual chart maps the question of ‘the guest’. This contribution of Savorani gives a schematic perspective of the concept that dominates this room: the moment of transformation of the private place to the public space during a meeting between a guest and his host.

The project that Franceschini realized for SYB is, as are her earlier works, a search for a kind of humanity within different spaces and objects. In her continuing cinematographic study, places are portrayed as if they were people, and this humanity continuously shines by way of its physical absence. The images that Franceschini uses are mostly still and silent. Human activity is only present as a suggestion. Therefore, the viewer gets a central position in the work, and is able to form a narrative, making the filmed space his/her own.

Although this is also the case for ‘The Guest Room’, the concept is carried by a multitude of media so that Franceschini has been able to allow herself a new freedom. She lets her common, film-type restrictions go and gives the video work a, for her doing, unknown light-footedness. The quick pace with which the images merge into one another, the HD quality of the medium, and the picture-in-picture technology with which the captured living spaces are put on top of one another, give the characteristic feeling of a television-aesthetic with which every visitor will be familiar. The lightness between the images gives even more openness for the visitor to play with; individual fragments and their possible tales. The highly suggestive character of both the images and the texts strengthens the role of the viewer as the protagonist. The visitor, allowed to take place on the fold-out bed in the middle of the room, is the guest around which the entire installation turns.

The new style that Franceschini has adopted for this project feels like a very calculated freedom. In a playful manner the video work explores the relationship between the private and the public space, where the object and the typology of television play a crucial role. The unforced simplicity of the images awake the fantasy of the viewer and are individual generators for the introduction of a personal story. This is further strengthened by the subtle hints in the project page, where every text can be the source of a new scenario.

The role that the viewer fills is simultaneously mirrored by the contributions of Franceschini’s official guests: Savorani and Guida. For the three artists in residence, the fictionalization of the image to an individual narrative has become a tactic to survive the small-town boredom of Beetsterzwaag. The quiet of the village allows, as do the stills, for the creation of new scripts to be formulated. Aside from this, the co-authorship of ‘The Guest Room’ is a real aspect of the project whereby Franceschini plays the role of both guest and hostess. The questions about the complex relationship between guest and host become inherent to the project. By taking multiple positions, Franceschini explores the entirety of her own project and nurtures the strong transition of her welcome hospitality.

1 www.yourworldoftext/THEGUESTROOM 12 september 2011. Coördinaten X=0, Y=-1.