By choosing to represent spaces relative to my personal experience this project marks a more explicitly personal exploration of built space and its social and psychological underpinnings than my past projects. I have selected two intimate spaces of dwelling—one of adolescence, my bedroom in the house in which I grew up in Shiloh, Ohio, a space of memory and of distance, remote both in terms of time and space, and the other, the studio apartment in Harlem in which I lived upon first moving to New York in January of 2012, a space I only recently left. These lived-in, slept-in, dreamt-in, and awakened-in spaces are contrasted with a representation of the Smack Mellon gallery space, a public space, only casually known to me, but significant as the place of presentation in which the two private spaces are given to the public.
All of the spaces are represented empty—suggesting a time before or after the living, sleeping, dreaming, awaking, or presenting occurs. This sense of transience is heightened by the continual shifting of location that plays out in the video, and along with the peculiar orientation of each of the dioramas, it acts to subverts spatial expectations. Each location—Harlem, Shiloh, and DUMBO—only intermittently accompanies its pertinent interior. The 1/12 scale of the dioramas, a common dollhouse scale, allows for the disparate spaces to be experienced in a proximity not otherwise possible, revealing how the Smack Mellon exhibition space, originally a boiler house supplying heat and power to nearby properties, dwarfs the two domestic interiors.
The structure itself is at once a contrivance for lifting the floor (thereby making possible the recessing of the dioramas) and an ode to both the concept of “room” and to the act of “building”. With its framing exposed, it exists as naked evidence of its own construction. Meanwhile, its skeletal appearance is suggestive of the body evoked in the quote from which I have taken the title of the piece. In the quote, from Lydia Davis’s translation of Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, it is the body that is engaged in the act of remembering a space: “Its memory, the memory of its ribs, its knees, its shoulders, offered in succession several of the rooms where it had slept, while around it the invisible walls, changing place according to the shape of the imagined room, spun through the shadows.” The three rooms of the structure, yet to take full form, are suspended in the indeterminate zone that is both a room and a black space. Like a conventional gallery space in that respect, each serves as an intimate gallery for the diorama it contains.
Erica Bailey is a New York-based multimedia artist whose work explores themes of alienation, disorientation, indeterminacy, anxiety, and senselessness through built environments of varying scale. Originally from Ohio, she holds a BFA in sculpture from The Ohio State University and an MFA in three-dimensional media from the University of Cincinnati. She has created several large-scale installations, including The House that was Haunted Before It was Built (2007), a small, two-story house built in the Aronoff Center for Art and Design at the University of Cincinnati and Telescoping House (2010), her second free-standing house project, for the UnMuseum of the Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center. She was recently a resident artist at the NARS Foundation in Brooklyn. Its memory, the memory of its ribs, its knees, its shoulders marks Bailey’s first solo exhibition in New York.