Fortuyn’s passage of time at the ICA

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Irene Fortuyn
Laser-cut paper garlands curtain the window.

Speaking of decoration, Irene Fortuyn’s ramp project at the Institute of Contemporary Art uses a wallpaper-like motif to not so much transform as to decorate the ramp.

Irene Fortuyn
Fortuyn talks to the opening-night crowd.

I suspect today’s focus on decoration is fallout from the Iraq fiasco and the felling of WTC. Fortuyn’s ramp project sums up the urge to decorate while Rome burns. She takes the ashes from ash trees to create the wall pattern. And she takes another wood product–fragile newsprint–to create the curtain of decorative garlands that hang in the window. The international selection of newspapers used, as well as Fortuyn’s nationality (she’s Dutch), serve as reminders that the state of the world is not just an American issue.

Irene Fortuyn
Detail of cast, birfucating branches, nailed to the wall.

I find this ramp project in some ways most similar to Barry LeVa’s. They are both about using the ramp as a metaphor for time and passage. In other words, they both announce that the ramp is a ramp and use it as a ramp. LeVa ran up and down, running into the walls. Fortuyn decorates.

Irene Fortuyn
Detail of the cut-paper garlands, made from newspapers.

…which is not a commentary on the frivolity of decoration. These decorations are far from frivolous. Fortuyn, who has a most fortunate name for what she’s contemplating here, counts the days. Her screened on ash pattern spells out the days of the week. And her cut-paper garlands also spell out the days of the week, each day made from newspaper of that day of the week. The bare bronze branches nailed to the walls also bespeak time’s passage, as does the physical walk through the space.

The decorations, like birthday parties and anniversary parties, mark the time at the same time that they simultaneously celebrate and mourn its passage. In a way, the piece is a sleeper, its elegant and subdued look not the kind of thing that grabs you by the lapels. But over time, it snuck up on me.

You can find a few more photos of Fortuyn’s piece my Flickr set of ICA opening night.

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