An Ikea Christmas #2

40 Yrs of Kaldor Public Art Projects @ the Art Gallery of NSW
War and Peace and Inbetween (2009) by Tatzu Nishi

photo by Carley Wright and Johan Palsson

Tatzu Nishi’s intent here is to reframe the familiar and thereby make it strange, but there is an unexpected and strange Ikea-ness to this installation – inside and out. Externally, a mess of utilitarian scaffolding is wrapped in tarpaulin, making twin big blue (Swedish blue) boxes either side of the Gallery’s entrance. Inside, fresh plasterboard, a lonely ceiling rose, and a sparse array of Harvey Norman-like furniture make decidedly domestic interiors.

In each cozy box, entered via a ramp from the Gallery’s front step, the enormous bronzes of horse and rider (English sculptor Gilbert Bayes’ 1923 The Offerings of Peace and The Offerings of War) burst out of a coffee table and tv cabinet (peace) and gallop across floral bedsheets (war). This should be surprising, even alarming. But strangely it isn’t. Their monumentality has been humorously domesticated to be sure. However, my eye is drawn to the cheap, faux-woodgrain vinyl flooring, the two Hemnes beds, the generic lifestyle photo in a frame on the chest of drawers which together conspire to make these spaces like Ikea showrooms – I mean the Hemnes is actually Ikea (should we be alarmed that I can Ikea-spot WITH product names?).

It is more the inescapable generic anonymity that struck me in this work, and made me contemplate the quality of dead spaces (dead versus live, filled with the detritus and evidence of real livingness). Like a hotel room, the spaces of War and Peace and Inbetween masquerade as real life… even with the intrusion of bloody big bronze statues.