Inner space: ’Big Will and Friends’ explores the perceptual playfulness of wallpaper

Inner space: ’Big Will and Friends’ explores the perceptual playfulness of wallpaper

Wallpaper might be strictly ornamental for some, but for Jonathan Louie of Architecture Office it can influence one’s perception of space. ’There was a whole issue of House Beautiful magazine dedicated to wallpaper,’ recalls Louie of the edition, which was subtitled ’Wonderful Ways of Wallpaper’. ’Reading through it, the magazine suggested wallpaper wasn’t just about what you put on the walls, but on all the surfaces of the room to visually thicken [them].’

Struck by the notion of wallpaper as an optical modifier, Louie produced a new exhibition, ’Big Will and Friends’, now on view at the Rodger Mack Gallery at Syracuse University.

Their collaboration resulted in a compact, 7 sq ft shotgun house featuring rooms created from a patterned scrim stretched over PVC; a smaller, mirrored model set within the house; and a collage of architectural drawings set one on top of the other, created by Stephen Zaima, a professor at Syracuse University’s College of Visual and Performing Arts. Dancers wearing similarly patterned clothing also moved throughout the space, performing choreography by Stephanie White and adding another layer of perceptual change while remaining within the wallpaper’s static framework.

Viewed in tandem with the performance, the installation demonstrates just how malleable space is. Standing at the centre of the main structure, visitors experience a kind of flattening perspective effect as they view the almost-opaque patterns through multiple layers of scrim. ’Big Will and Friends’ is fluid, changing as the light interacts with the pattern differently throughout the day. ’Interior design usually connotes adornment,’ says Louie, ’but what this suggests is that it can actually be a kind of architecture.’

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