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'Red Room'

Author: Cat Auburn, Preparator

Dowse Preparator Cat Auburn shares her experience of installing Bruce Dehnert's work Red Room.

At The Dowse Art Museum we are caretakers of culture, which can take many intangible forms such the archival of knowledge and the collection of memory for future generations. As a Preparator, my caretaking is very much a physical responsibility. We install exhibitions with the longevity of the objects we are placing on show in the forefront of our minds.

When I first encountered Bruce Dehnert’s work Red Room, it was during a problem solving meeting about the potential longevity of this artwork—its fragile materials and complicated assemblage was cause for concern. Red Room consists of 250 ceramic flowers hung individually on the gallery wall. Each flower is made up of three separate parts that fit into to one another—a base, stem and then flower. The wall for Red Room in the Slip Cast exhibition is vastly higher and wider than any spaces it has previously been exhibited in. It also has an unforgiving concrete floor so there was no room for error!

With permission from the artist we decided to come up with a permanent solution: to attach the stems permanently to the bases and come up with a methodical method for installation. This was a two month process from start to finish—testing the products to adhere the two parts of the flower together; liaising with the artist; joining the ceramic pieces; all finally ending with me hanging dramatically and inelegantly from a scissor-lift three metres in the air as our Senior Curator, Emma Bugden, handed me each flower to install… one at a time.

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