• 08.29.12

A Wilting Dreamscape That You Can Walk Inside

The artists provide the big melty room; it’s up to you to fill it with meaning.

Most sensible people know that there are big changes going on in our world–changes in the climate, in the economy, in society at large and how it’s structured–but it can be hard to really internalize those changes when you’re just reading about them in a newspaper. Sometimes, things need to be experienced–to be felt–to be understood. Which means that sometimes, you just have to let people walk into a big melty room and let them figure out what it means for themselves.


That’s one way to understand Le Cercle Fermé, an installation by artists Martine Feipel and Jean Bechameil that served as Luxembourg’s entry in last year’s Venice Biennale. The artists took a sort of blandly familiar space–wood floors, white walls with some nice molding–and turned it into a drooping, dripping dreamscape, equal parts Dali and Escher. It’s like what happens when you move a watercolor too quickly after it’s finished–but rendered in real life. A good dose of mirrors makes the whole experience all the more dizzying.

The official explanation for the installation talks a lot about spaces–how spaces are “in crisis,” how the march of civilization is constantly redefining the spaces we’re familiar with, like our homes and offices, and how these issues of space are central to Le Cercle Fermé. Despite grappling with these issues, however, the artists realize that a big melty room won’t necessarily mean the same thing to every person who walks inside it.

“Le cercle fermé has been structured and thought through by us in many respects, but we wish to keep it open and loose in order to let people in,” the artists told Co.Design. “It’s for people to make their own story out of it and to discover it and deepen it. It’s important for us that in an intellectual way it relates to many things and it is great that people can just physically and intuitively enjoy it!”

It’s a refreshingly straightforward take on the complicated world of art appreciation: There are ideas there, but you can enjoy it however you want.

The piece was conceived a year before the Biennale, and each room in the installation was created in the artists’ Luxembourg studio ahead of time. In all, it took six months to construct and an additional six weeks to install. And for those who dared to touch the piece, there was a surprise. Many of the structural elements were hard, as one would expect, but others, like the chairs and the drawers, were soft to the touch.

I’m sure a handful of visitors, as the piece’s brochure suggests, were prompted to think of the limits and boundaries of our familiar spaces, how they are bound by custom, and what spaces might exist beyond them. Personally, it makes me want to eat some ice cream.

[Hat tip:]