Going Up To Their Rooms
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Going Up To Their Rooms

For the past seven years, the Gladstone Hotel has been extending a tongue-in-cheek invitation to Come Up To My Room and experience immersive installations throughout the hotel by some of the most interesting artists and designers working today. For the next three days, eleven rooms and sixteen public spaces in the building will be consumed by the work of over fifty designers.

Come Up To My Room is considered to be the “wildly alternative sister” to the Interior Design Show, which also runs until Sunday at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. In fact, it’s one event in the absolute flurry of activity that has become unofficially known as Toronto’s “Design Week.” The spring issue of Design Lines comes out, MADE (the intrepid Dundas Street West design store) puts on their annual industrial design show “Radiant Dark,” and even the Royal Ontario Museum is getting in on the action with a brief exhibition called “Cut/Paste: Creative Reuse in Canadian Design.” This year, in an attempt to make things a bit more official, a new entity has emerged to collect all of these events under one conceptual roof, the Toronto International Design Festival.

Details from Naomi Yasui, Jennifer Sciarrino, and Jacob Whibley’s Slap Dash Depository in room 210.

Whatever you want to call this week of all things design, Come Up To My Room continues to be one of the most surprising and inspiring collections of design ideas. This is partly due to the supportive but hands-off curatorial approach, in which the curators are not allowed into the exhibition rooms during the installation process. Jeremy Vandermeij, one of the show’s four co-curators, explained their role to Torontoist. “Once we select all of the participants from the large pool of applications, the curators are responsible for communicating the artists’ needs to the Gladstone, music, entertainment, graphics, collection of information, and generally providing all the necessary support for the artists a gallery/curator would normal provide. We plan and manage the Design Talks and any other unique events, and we manage and recruit the volunteers. Finally, we host the event and provide curatorial tours to press, students, and interested guests.”
This emphasis on selection and facilitation—and the feeling of freedom and play that it creates—is evident across the installations. The show feels experimental, ephemeral, and curious. Here are some of Torontoist’s favourites.

Public Spaces

Vancouver-based lighting, furniture, and exhibition design studio Propellor Design created a series of hanging lights that were inspired by a found walnut log brought into their studio. Referencing fractal patterns and based in natural materials, they create an awning of abstracted branches and soft points of light.

Propellor Design’s Mycologic.

Propellor has previously participated as an exhibitor at the Interior Design Show (and currently has a mesmerizing light installation that looks like a tiny snow-covered mountain range in “Radiant Dark”). We spoke to Propellor’s Toby Barratt about the difference between the two experiences from the perspective of a contributor. He told us that Come Up To My Room and the Interior Design Show are “two different creatures. IDS was a bigger production for us, building a booth and exhibiting numerous designs. Come Up To My Room has given us an opportunity to concentrate on creating a single, completely new design.” They became involved with the Gladstone’s event through MADE, and were “immediately excited to be involved in Come Up To My Room. Being from Vancouver, we haven’t had a chance to see the show in past years but we have seen much of the work online and in magazines and we have been impressed by the huge outpouring of creativity that Come Up To My Room elicits from the Art and Design community.”
The contribution of Toronto’s Science and Sons (the moniker of industrial designer and OCAD graduate Tristan Zimmermann) is true to the thoughtful irreverence of his wildly inventive body of work. In his 2007 Nuit Blanche project Play by Hear, the artist invited the audience to place their personal audio devices into a massive communal sound-amplifying machine made of a clever tangle of wind instruments. For Come Up To My Room, he displays two giant clocks that softly expose the intricate mechanics that usually operate invisibly behind their faces. By connecting the hour, minute, and second hands with jointed wooden bars, Science and Sons creates a constantly changing sculpture, responding gracefully to the constant passage of time.

Room 204

Detail from Julia Hepburn’s bird dream vignettes in room 204.

This room hosts the other-worldy imagination of Julia Hepburn. Typically working in miniatures and dioramas, Hepburn has embraced the opportunity to work on a much larger scale. She presents the embodied dreams of a black bird who is fast asleep in a large nest bed. Once you come to terms with the absolute charm of a tiny bird tucked safely under the covers, it’s time to investigate each one of the mysterious and haunting miniature scenes installed within metal lanterns hanging from the tree-top canopy of the bed. Not wanting to explain too much, Hepburn allows you to craft your own possible narratives to explain the dream scenes.

Room 207

Paolo Ferrari and Richard Unterthiner collaborate in room 207 to take you through the looking glass. Entering their space requires an initial act of commitment, as you are asked to take off your shoes and set off into a mirrored maze tunnel. Fully disoriented by the reflections and trompe l’oeil of navigating the mirrors, you arrive in a soft, light, white, and equally disorienting space. Cradled on a soft and springy bed, white words float above you on the subject of sleep. The words and phrases were collected from a blog established by the artists called Bed Memory, which invited visitors to leave anonymous recollections relating to beds.
Ferrari and Unterthiner’s room is an encapsulation of what makes Come Up To My Room so different. The participants don’t walk the line between art and design, as they simply don’t see a line of separation. Mixing highly aesthetic considerations with deeply conceptual ideas, Come Up To My Room gives design the chance to branch out from the world of form and stake a firm claim in the realm of cultural significance.
Come up to my Room runs Friday, January 22, 12–8 p.m.; 
Saturday, January 23, 12–10 p.m.; and Sunday, January 24, 12–5 p.m. Admission is $8, with the exception of the “Thrive Design for 100%” talks on Saturday in the ballroom, and the Opening Love Party on Saturday night, which offer free admission.
Photos by Michael Chrisman/Torontoist.