Rik Lander artworks

Room 11 (this can't be the place), 2005.

Room 11 (this can't be the place), 2005, was part of a group exhibition at the Ashley Court Hotel, Bristol

The installation required people to enter Room 11 alone. Already this made it different to the other rooms. It meant that fewer people saw this work, only those willing to wait. Many didn't know what they were waiting for. Others had heard that the room was 'spooky'.

The bed was askew, sloping as though dropped from a height. There was the sound of a buzzing insect. Male and female voices whispered almost inaudibly from the bed side table and wardrobe. Near each of these was a picture of a couple, in one he is blurred, in the other she is. There is a fifteen second pause between each of the whispered lines.

Female voice from the wardrobe:

I love you.

Who were you?

What I wanted to hear.

This can’t be the place.

Are you still there?

Male voice from the bed side table:

I love you.

Stop it. Stop it.

What you wanted to hear.

Towels as soft as a mother’s caress.

It makes her happy to think I’m happy away from her.

Are you still there?

I was pleased that people would spend a long time in the room, but it was only when I looked back at video of them standing with their heads tilted or crouching on the dirty carpet that I discovered how intensely they listened.

As you the entered the dimly lit room a red light shone briefly from under the end of the bed. Packs of scissors were scattered on the floor leading under the bed. Male and female voices came from here too and, once the red light had faded, the blue glow of a tiny TV screen became visible. If you lay on the floor, or squatted on your haunches you could see and hear the tiny black and white TV.

Some people didn't even look under the bed, they only heard the sounds and saw the skewed bed and blurred snap shots. I don't mind this. If I had put a sign saying 'look under the bed' it would have had no power as an artwork at all.

They found my number in his phone. Last call. He used to tell me stories about the hotels where he stayed.

He left a message about this hotel. I’d erased it before I knew he was dead. I knew they were stories but I allowed myself to believe.

They said he’d pushed his samples under the bed. He was crouched on the floor when they found him. This can’t be the place. This can’t be the place.

Well, the building and grounds are palatial. The staff all wear white. They pad around on silent feet. Should see the towels. Towels as soft as a mother’s caress. Are you still there?

At breakfast they offer champagne and the rarest delicacies from forgotten empires. The bathroom is sprinkled with fragrant petals every morning.

I’ll be back before midnight. Depending on the traffic.

On the tiny black and white screen under the bed was a video of a woman exploring the room. She was curled up on the bed, she was lying on the floor or peering into the camera which looked down into the room. Switching with this was the live output of the camera. The visitor would see themselves lying or crouching on the floor intercut with the ghostly woman.

Some people hated it. Others found it disturbing, signifying darkness. Several offered explanations I had never considered. I had removed all concrete elements of the narrative leaving only hints and tones. Children got little from it, it was too slight. The most pleasing response was when a woman, having spent some time listening attentively to the voices in the room, touched the rough old towel that was hanging on the radiator, as though to confirm that it wasn't as soft as a mother's caress.

Rik Lander, May 2005

I am extremely grateful to Lisa Coleman who played the part of the woman.

Thanks to Sandy Creighton and Paul Green who helped with the construction and installation.