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Object of Desire at Shelly Steffee

New York, NY, 2009

This installation explores the manipulation of space by adding a foreign structure to a retail boutique specifically designed to blur boundaries between public and private. It continues and expands upon the firm’s exploration of certain themes in relation to the architecture of the original space for Shelly Steffee – including our perception of vision, desire, commodification and their relationships to fashion.

The original layout of the store, designed by Stephan Jaklitsch Architects in 2001, was intended to draw customers into the space through a large pivoting window frame, the forced perspective of inserted partitions, and the allure of a space beyond what is visible from the street. The store is organized as a series of thresholds that shift geometrically and materially as public space layers back toward the womb-like central space and the shielded intimacy of the fitting rooms. Steel, glass and industrial elements near the street give way to the curved plaster walls, a shear veiling curtain, and the soft leather wall of the fitting rooms.

The object, an installation in the form of a camera obscura, intrudes and encroaches upon this layered subtlety, rudely interrupting a carefully planned sequence of spaces and creating tension between old and new. Playing upon the viewer’s curiosity and expectations, the Looking Device is transformed through its materiality and by the positioning of the viewer outside of the device, effectively blocking the light that would be admitted to the camera obscura to create an image when the viewer peers inside. Thus, the image that would be seen by peering inside the device disappears the moment someone tries to do so.

That missing image and its replacement are a conceptual compression of the spaces that are layered from the street to the dressing area, blurring boundaries between public and private.

Status: Built
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