Living it up at the hotel Conn.’s ‘50,000 Beds’

A hotel room is a functional space, giving travelers and tourists a private place to sleep and bathe. But it can also be so much more, at least according to Christopher Doyle and the 15 artists featured in the “50,000 Beds” exhibit now on display at Artspace.

As an artist who spent more time on the road, it seemed, than at home, Doyle began to wonder why a hotel room could not be a productive, creative space. He positioned 45 artists or teams of artists in 30 different hotel rooms throughout Connecticut, asking them to make a short film based on their experiences. “50,000 Beds” is the answer to Doyle’s question.

It is also the first collaboration between Connecticut’s three premier contemporary art museums — Artspace in New Haven, Hartford’s Real Art Ways and The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Ridgefield — with 15 videos now on display in each museum.

“Splitting the exhibit into three venues allows for more press,” said Joseph Smolinski, a member of the Artspace Visual Arts Committee. “We have been able to bring into the museum many more people because the word is being spread that much further.”

In the exhibit, which takes its name from the approximately 50,000 beds available to travelers across Connecticut, the hotel room can either serve as the backdrop to the action or as a participant in the action, and the videos’ styles range from documentary to fantasy. Though most of the artists included in the exhibit took a more factual approach to the films, some used the hotel room itself and its varied properties — bed, carpet, electricity outlets — as an active agent. For instance, Melissa Dubbin and Aaron S. Davidson’s “Thank You For Not Smoking” turned every physical detail of the space into a smoke-emitting device, from the bathroom’s metallic faucets to the lace of the bedspread, which was transformed into volcano-like craters.

Despite their differences in style, form and content, the 15 videos are all meant to investigate the narrative potential of any hotel room, according to the exhibit’s press release.

“Familiar yet foreign, a hotel room continues experiences of both intimacy and anonymity,” the release said.

Doyle’s particular intimacy with the project is most evident in his unique designs for the three exhibition venues. It was essential for Doyle’s design to allow each film to be considered individually while still acknowledging the project as a whole. The Artspace venue uses transparent silks in a variety of greens and taupes to separate each film space.

Working with Connecticut’s two other leading contemporary art museums on “50,000 Beds” was an invaluable opportunity for Artspace. But the museum has no plans for another similar endeavor.

“We don’t have immediate plans,” said Rashmi Talpade, also a member of the Artspace Visual Arts Committee. “But if something suitable presents itself, we are not opposed to working with Real Art Ways and The Aldrich again.”

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