T Rooms, an exhibition by Matthew Darbyshire is on show at Tramway, Glasgow and runs till 11 March 2012. In previous exhibitions at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London (2008) and Herald St, London (2010), Darbyshire has created works critiquing homogenization and non-specificity in design and architecture, provoking questions on the strategies and value of urban regeneration.
These ideas are extended in the installation that Darbyshire has created in Tramway’s large gallery, emerging from a representation taken from forms of disused and neglected spaces that create resonances in the surrounding depressed economic climate. T Rooms presents an imagined future where the neighborhood around Tramway has been taken over by property developers, converting Tramway into a gated residential area under construction.The gallery is partitioned with walls, each wrapped with a banner designed as a façade of a building featuring an assortment of motifs and designs.
As one navigates around the partitions, the liberal application of features taken from the designs of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, the celebrated modernist architect from Glasgow, becomes visible. These features, from the rose motif, right-angled patterns and distinctive typeface, are widely available in souvenirs from tourist shops and signboards of general stores in Glasgow. The assemblage presents a neighborhood made sterile with the tokenistic use of historical or cultural emblems, and this sense grows as one advances towards each wall, where the reality of the flatness of illusionary textures from the 3D computer renderings becomes apparent.
Within the installation of building wraps are interventions arising from Darbyshire’s collaborations with other artists and writers, drawing out formal, historical and social associations from the issues regarding design and regeneration of public spaces. Untitled Photograms No. 1 – No. 3 with Jacob Farrell is a series of photographs informed by the rise of virtual shops, where vacant and disused shops are covered with vinyl stickers to give the impression of thriving businesses in the neighborhood.
Smoking Shelter is a sculptural work that emerges in presence as one moves towards the end of T Rooms, at a dead-end formed by the neglected zone behind several houses. A collaboration with Rupert Ackroyd, Smoking Shelter is intended to be a gathering space for smokers, yet it seems to be a space where the shelter becomes one for the ornamental steel structure with the Mackintosh rose, surfacing questions about the design of social spaces that seeks to embrace a nostalgia for signs from the past at the expense of human concerns. The exhibition also presents works in collaboration with Owen Hatherley and Scott King.