In her work British artist Chloe Brooks engages with architectural histories, integrating historicising elements into given architectural surroundings. Through partly subtle changes and partly bold gestures the artist creates ambivalent often absurd situations, which allow the beholder to perceive new and previously unexpected or hidden sides to their environment.
For her exhibition at Centrum Chloe Brooks has developed a site-specific work with several elements, with which the artist addresses the history of the architecture and the previous use of the project space and relates it to the history of the parlour. First used during medieval times, the term 'parlour' (from French 'parler', to speak) was used to describe the parts of a monastery – often closest to the main entrance – which were used for communication and trade with the outside world. Later in the 18th and 19th centuries, the 'parlour' or 'drawing room' became the ‘window to the world’ within the private homes of the upper and middle classes, where visitors were received and where the family presented itself and their social status through the display of their best furniture, works of art, and other status symbols. The extravagance and aura connected with the historical meaning of the term is rendered ambivalent in the exhibition through a distinct use of material: the historicising architectural elements typical of a 'parlour' are covered in black shiny vinyl and are set in contrast with peach-coloured walls, a direct reference to Centrum’s previous history, which before its transformation into an exhibition space served as the bar and anteroom of a brothel.
Another important part of the installation is a series of four etchings, each depicting a building in 20th century American neoclassicism. A typical characteristic of this kind of architecture is archaising columns, which evoke the temples of ancient Greece, together with modern green glass curtains. The combination of a historicising vocabulary of architectural forms with modern building materials was chosen to transmit a certain image: symmetry and balance as a symbol for strength, longevity and wealth as well as progress and transparency. For the etchings, the artist first produced digital drawings of the buildings which were photo-etched onto a metal plate and hand-printed. Again, modern means meet with tradition: the preliminary drawing executed with digital technology is subsequently printed on paper using a printing technique which is outdated and nowadays rarely used. In a similar way as the installation in which they are presented, the etchings, and the buildings depicted in them, reference a historical pomposity, which is skewed and exaggerated through the distinct use of material and technology.
Through making classicist architectural elements meet with historical reconstruction, in her installation PARLOUR Chloe Brooks creates within the space a tension between private and public, where visitors have to reorient themselves and where the subtly induced previous use of the exhibition space also evokes the more contemporary and more sleazy connotations of a massage parlour.