The Mattress Factory is a contemporary art museum in Pittsburgh that I try to visit at least once a year because it’s cheap (used to be free with my Pitt ID), fun, bizarre, and at times — perplexing. My brother Corey has never been there so I was stoked to accompany him for his first visit. I taunted Henry before we left, trying to m ake him jealous, but the expression he gave me shouted, “Yeah, just what I want to; go watch you and your brother be obnoxious art dicks.”
There is usually at least one installation that makes me angry because I don’t get it and I REALLY WANT TO GET IT because that will aid my cause for pretentiousness.
This time it was some exhibit with two videos of shutters being opened and closed, and large plastic bags randomly inflating.
There was a couple in the room with us and the boy was all, “Oh, I totally get this” and as he was explaining it to his girlfriend, I was like, “Awesome, I will just learn from him and pretend that I got it all along” except that everything he said was steeped in concepts that my brain refuses to let in because it is too full of ginger douchebag obsession, Jersey Shore anecdotes and lame office prank ideas.
I quickly realized that me and that guy could never, ever hang out. I could probably fake intellect and a love for Sufjan Stevens for about 9 minutes before he saw right through me to my screamo collection and trashy MTV reality show-filled DVR.
*not the actual name of the exhibit. I am too tired to Google.
I really enjoyed the room full of plaster hands holding bread. This one I really did understand! It’s called “My Offering.” Here’s an excerpt from the artist’s statement, because suddenly I feel inspired to be a factual blogger:
I have not escaped the memories of the victims’ hands asking food and help in the aftermath of the Nagis cyclone that hit Burma’s delta in 2008. When my wife and I were doing relief work with other friends, I saw the many hands of people who were hungry for food, for safety, for kindness and for others. We continue to see countless hands like these all over the world today.
A bland room with a very clinical white-tiled floor held several clumps of found objects called “Roadkill.” I did not really understand this one too, but I almost accidentally stepped on a collection of tiny candle stubs because I wasn’t paying attention. This was one of the many installations that made me feel secure in my decision to say “NO! N-O spells NO!” when my 5-year-old Godzilla-footed son asked if he could come, too. Another experiment in child endangerment was the large wormhole that cut through the 4th floor and extended into a chute that went outside. Perfect size for a kid’s slide. SEE YA ON THE OTHER SIDE, SON!
I have no idea, but I will look at it and nod.
I posted this on Facebook, and someone asked, “Your living room?” I wish!
This is my favorite installation, hands down. It’s called “It’s All About ME, Not You.” The artist, Greer Lankton, died in 1996 after the exhibit’s opening, and her family recently gave it to the Mattress Factory to be permanently displayed.
Imagine John Waters puked inside my head and then a transvestite artist drank from it. It is equal parts white trash, retro fabulous, creepy-queer and Valley of the Dolls. I want to live inside of it.
I wish I had known Greer Lankton because this small relic of her heart, brains and guts really moves me in a way that art rarely does.
Honestly, I wish this was the last thing I saw every night before closing my eyes and the first thing every morning when I awoke. I am so smitten.
I LOVE THIS ROOM! IT MAKES ME SO HAPPY!!!
Corey was like, “Haha, there are so many of us!”
“It’s Henry’s worst nightmare!” I exclaimed, and then Corey and I erupted in our signature brand of gang-laughter.
“Actually, they’re boat shoes,” Corey replied, matching my sneer and raising it one notch of indignation.
There is one permanent exhibit called Pleiades, which basically requires one to sit in absolute darkness. I have never had the patience to see what the outcome might be, but here is what the Mattress Factory says about it:
Drywall, paint, incandescent light
500 Sampsonia Way, 2nd floor
You approach the gallery through an inclined corridor so dark that you are virtually without sight. At the top of the ramp, you sit in a chair and face blackness. After your eyes adjust, an amorphous sphere of grey-white, or perhaps red, begins to appear, more a presence than an object. As you look harder, the form becomes smaller. You turn away for a moment and back again. It grows and glimmers. But the source of light itself is constant and still.
Art Critic and his girlfriend were already in this particular exhibition, probably practicing their dissertation on art and blindness, so Corey and I were told by a gallery employee standing next to a vintage British Airways bag that we would have to wait for them to finish being art douches.
Since we didn’t have any art to frown upon, fawn over, or openly mock, I decided to tell Corey about the night before, when I discovered that the only reason Chooch won’t eggs is because he can’t cut them. Henry’s reaction to this was, “I am NOT cutting eggs for him because then he is going to be 25 and still needing his food cut by someone, JUST LIKE YOU AND YOUR BROTHER!”
Corey laughed but then defensively said, “Hey, I was like, 14 when Henry had to cut my pork chops!” as if it’s perfectly masculine and acceptable for a 14-year-old male to need his protein cut for him. But then after a thoughtful pause, he admitted, “Although…I had to get my girlfriend’s dad to cut my food recently.” The absurdity of how absolutely related we are made me crack up, and then he laughed loudly too, which echoed and ricocheted up the dark corridor and into the Pleiades room, totally disrupting the thoughtful banter between the art smarties that I am clearly making fun of only because I’m jelis that they have such a greater appreciation while I am left to stumble in their intellectual wake with undulating question marks floating above my head.
Finally, it was our turn, but we barely had a chance to feel around for our seats before two other people came tromping blindly up the corridor, thanks to British Airways not doing her job. So then we had the awkward task of trying to skirt past them in the dark without groping them. I felt the one guy’s breath on my neck, it was so intimate. I hope he was hot. His breath sure was.
Yay for overpriced shoddily crafted art in a cigarette machine! Corey actually wanted a body part key chain but then was all, “Well, I’m not paying $5 if I don’t know what kind of limb I’m getting.” Andrea can probably make him a better one, anyway.
At first I said, “Who would want a fruit cozie?” but then I realized I totally would, just to be a dick.
Another room that confused us, and was also extremely dangerous for equilibrium-challenged people like ourselves. It was essentially a small-scale construction site with lots of dangling steel beams and random ditches in the ground. Another terrific room for Chooch to roam free.
We decided that we should go more often. Maybe one day we can be real life art smarties!