2014 Inception Award |Helen Bratty

Performing Still Life by Helen Bratty from AUT

Performing still life is a project that focuses on the performative nature of the hotel lobby. Theorist Siegfried Kracauer’s essay Hotel lobby (1933) describes the hotel lobby as “…a space that encompasses them (them being the guests) and has no func1on other than to encompass them”1. In this light the lobby can be seen as a set or stage on which the guests perform but are also the audience observing life. As equally ‘…hotel bars and lobbies are those wonderful places where ordinary life enters the realm of high drama. Just as good theatre creates its own world as it illuminates our real one, hotel bars and lobbies are the stages that reflect society’s image”2

This project began with an interest in the inanimate objects that populate a hotel lobby and are seen as a performing s1ll life. S1ll is defined as the captured performances of non-human actors. “The life is only s1ll, not absent”3 These oPen overlooked performances of non-human actors became the centre of the stage. Signalling the performance a series of posters were constructed adver1sing the characters already present and introduced by human actors to the space; suitcases, chairs, pillars and keys to name a few.

The site, the old Auckland Railway Sta1on in Auckland City (1928), was once a bustling city railway sta1on. The lobby in this early 20th century masonry construc1on enforced a pause or break before a journey. Stories about the old railways sta1on in newspaper ar1cles oPen described an abundance of objects either leP behind or being crammed into trains by porters. These stories conjured images of trollies stacked high with everything except the kitchen sink. This created the basis to a narra1ve involving a stop mo1on film ac1va1ng what was the everyday event of inanimate object within the sta1on.

Miniaturising the lobby the objects are projected into the interior accompanied with a soundscape that drew viewers to the scenes that perhaps once filled the now empty and disused lobby of the old sta1on

1 Kracauer, S. (1933). The Hotel Lobby. In Leach, N. Rethinking Architecture. A reader in Cultural Theory. (p. 51-57). New York: Routledge. Pg 51
2 Berens, C. (1996). Hotel Bars and lobbies. New York: McGraw-Hill Professional. Pg 1
3 Peter Ackroyd sited in Severs, D. (2002). 18 Folgate Street. The Tale of a House in Spitalfields. London: Vintage pg IX