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In Parlour, a collaborative installation by Belinda Giddins, Mandy Ridley and Sandra Selig, it seemed as though all things were half remembered. Just as you thought you recognised the piano music, which acted as a constant soundtrack to this constructed scenario, the tune changed, drifting into another familiar sounding melody. You were left with a sense of the music rather than a complete tune. This reflected the very nature of Parlour, which seduced with its fragmented clues, suggesting the sensation of a place while simultaneously denying the viewer access to that place. This sensation of seduction and denial suggested repressive Victorian values, which seem to have informed the narratives of the work.
The main components of Parlour - carpet samples, a dissected piano, a large red satin curtain, wall text, the overtracing of an archway, tiny bound curls of hair in jewellery boxes, a soundtrack and red and blue lighting -combined to create an interior geography which the viewer had to negotiate. This geography was the parlour of Victorian culture, traditionally a public space within the private domain of the home.
The fall of the red satin curtain draped over the wall was sensual and flesh-like, pushing gently into the space and particularly referencing the physical body. On the wall opposite the traced text floorlapsefold echoed the gesture of the curtain. The viewer's understanding of this curtain depended upon the orientation of their body within the installation. Although the wall behind the red satin was bare, it was as though something was concealed by the curtain, either an entrance, exit or antechamber.
This relationship between interior geography and architecture was present in the dissected piano. The two ends of the piano lay on their backs like book-ends, exposing their interior workings of strings and felled hammers, simultaneously presenting the internal and external structure. On the keyboard some of the piano keys were struck, but they were without a player, noiseless and frozen in time, a fragmentary chord of a tune matching the disparate melody of the soundscape. On the wall facing the gallery entrance part of the dissected piano was mounted and the curve of the piano's key cover was echoed in a curled sample of oriental carpet. While this set up a formal interplay, it also echoed the juxtaposition of various objects in the Victorian parlour. It demonstrated the appropriation which came to characterise the cultural expression of the British Empire. The 'Eastern carpet samples' were actually surface patterns painted over carpet - pattern as decoration, separate from its original cultural context. Although this Parlour contained samples of Eastern carpet (kilims and Chinese), its combination of objects spoke clearly of a European/Western parlour.
This work could perhaps only have been completed collaboratively. Its strength was in its evocation of place through the interplay of the narratives of each contributor's work. The dissection and reconstitution of the interiorscape of this Parlour evoked a collective memory, an echo, a ghost of experiences and histories.