The Influence of Furniture on Love

A 17th century farmhouse, where artists reside, is transformed into a living art gallery

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John Maynard Keynes isn’t necessarily the sort of person you think would inspire a contemporary art show—even if he did hang out with the Bloomsbury Group. But at the Wysing Arts Centre outside Keynes’ hometown of Cambridge, a new exhibition, “The Influence of Furniture on Love,” draws on an unpublished essay of his to explore the relationship between living space and creativity. The 1909 handwritten essay, called “Can we consume our surplus or the influence of furniture on love?” discusses if it’s possible for the rooms we inhabit to “suggest to us thoughts and feelings and occupations.”

At Wysing, those thoughts and feelings would naturally turn to art; the early 17th century farmhouse has been used as artists’ residences for more than two decades. Now, as Wysing celebrates its 25th anniversary, the house has been emptied of personal belongings and filled with works by some of the artists that have lived there over the past 25 years. “Wysing allows for an informal way to create and share ideas around the kitchen table,” says curator Lotte Juul. “This exhibition sees artists responding to the house and what their time here meant to them.”

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Among those who have contributed to “The Influence of Furniture on Love” is Elizabeth Price, who was in residence at Wysing in 2012. Her piece “G.U.N” (1993) is displayed on its own in a room on the upper floor, where the set of drawers with a gun on top creates a new narrative and provokes questions for the otherwise empty room: who left the gun here, and has it been used—will it be used? Some of the artworks included in the exhibition (including “G.U.N”) already existed and were chosen for their suitability, whereas others were made specifically for the exhibition, such as Ruth Beale’s wallpaper entitled “The press, which is a tongue to the eye.”

Seeing the artists’ work on display in a space where they once lived is an oddly immersive and intimate experience, creating a more personal connection between the artist and the viewer than perhaps a gallery show would. “Influence” also underlines the relationship between the artist and the space in which s/he creates. As Florian Roithmayr—who was in residence at Wysing in 2013—says: “The house was always a space of production.”

The Influence of Furniture on Love” is on view until 2 November 2014 at Wysing Arts Centre, located at Fox Road,
Bourn, Cambridge, CB23 2TX.

Gil Leung, Monumentality (2013) photo by Plastiques photography, courtesy the artist and Wysing Arts Centre; Florian Roithmayr, The Y (2013) photo Guillaume Breton, courtesy the artist, Rowing Projects, MOTInternational, London & Brussels and Wysing Arts Centre; Elizabeth Price, G.U.N. (1993) courtesy of the artist and MOT international, London & Brussels; Lisa Wilkens, Prevented portrait myself (2011) courtesy the artist and Wysing Arts Centre