Mending Room

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Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA

Materials & Dimensions:
drywall, wood, bluestone, moss, broken concrete pavement, copper, glass
8 feet 3 inches high x 8 feet square; entry walk and baffle wall- 11 feet 6 inches long

The site was the inaugural exhibition for the new building for the Institute of Contemporary Art.

The room was built with two blind windows, a baffled entrance, and a skylight. The door could be entered by a narrow bluestone threshold, one end of which was engraved with the word “once”, and the other with the word “never”. Entering and leaving were therefore mediated by apparently absolute and contradictory terms. Within, the floor was a bluestone frame walkway around a thick square of broken Philadelphia concrete sidewalk mortised into the bluestone. This juxtaposition is commonplace in old Philadelphia sidewalks. The gaps in the concrete were filled with moss that was watered twice a day, giving the interior a moist, forest-floor fragrance. Light entered from the copper-lined skylight and from two eight-inch square windows that were centered in the left and right walls. Each of these windows had copper jambs and sills and were double-glazed with plate glass, clear outside and sandblasted inside. Thus a pink glow suffused the windows on the inside. The glass was flush with the walls, separated from their surface by only a layer of paint. Opposite the doorway, engraved on bluestone and inlaid into the wall, was the following text:

Picking up the pieces
Finding where the edges meet
And close
Where they border on nothing
Because a part is lost.
Filling these absences
With a clear binder
To have a completeness
But still have the wounds
As windows.