Who wakes up on a Sunday morning with a mind to making a living-room light out of 350 metres of car diverter hose? The question tips Matt Bird’s gaze up to the ceiling that appears to be colonising with alien spawn. “I think I should say I worked with Cassandra Fahey for three years and it runned off.”
Referring to the ‘uninhibited’ Melbourne architect whose surrealism take on structure famously celebrates the prosaic, the profane, and the cult of personality (think Pamela Andreson digital-printed onto the smooth glass facade of Footy Show host Sam Newman’s former home), Bird has channeled Fahey’s wry humor and resourcefulness into an inspired, if not slightly disturbing, fit-out of his own tiny rental.
“I think it was the scratched-up floor,” he says, trying to recall what first move dhim to furnish the flat’s living space with a Cinemascope wide manipulation of Michalengelo’s Creation of Adam, a cruciform of car hub-caps digi-printed with self portraits, a comfort throw featuring the computer generated face of Michalengelo’s Pieta and a room-wide, kitchen-concealing curtain made from polar fleece. “There were clean walls and an interesting ceiling - raw concrete. I wanted this place to be an escape, something removed from all the craziness out there.”
He stops, looks around and laughs at his own absurd suggestion that life might be any crazier out there than in this nightclub dark den where pictures of mutant kangaroo embryos are framed into a familial grouping on the bedroom wall.
“I kinda wanted to reference what was going on out there. In one way it is an amplification of it, but then maybe it’s… I don't know, call it a Cassandra Fahey hiccup. I think the idea of a geometry being repeated in different intensities has seeped into my psyche. I started with the bedroom and just hung all the stuff from the ceiling as if it was some kind of nursery.”
The ‘stuff’ is an installation of thousands of hand-tied threads of textured wool, some of which have been sporadically strung with beads to suggest the refuse of a creature lying dormant within. Devised to stave off the boredom of lying on the bed “looking at nothing and feeling sort of lonely in the space”, this seemingly ‘alive’ drop is contained by a ring of tree bark that further conjures the illusion of an animate cocoon.
Sourcing his decorative fodder in the shopping haunts of handymen and petrolheads, teh designer (who runs his own business Studiobird) remembers fielding inquiries from shop assistants whose curiosity was piqued by the big care-hose order. “Look, you did this last week,” Bird says, mimicking one Autobarn worker asked to order more. “Riiight, you’re an architect. All you had to do was say it was for an art installation, dude.”
Product placing the windscreen visors (encircling the hose diverters) at Big W, the polar fleece at Lincraft, teh digi-printing on polyester at Classic Colour Copying and the cinemascope Creation of Adam print at Creative Visuals (“they were really helpful and git it”), Bird declares the self-referential and reverential fitout to be an exuberant expression of the ‘me’ generation. It begs the question of upbringing.
“I grew up in a typical family in a bayside suburb of Melbourne, in the Gergian house thing, so you can imagine my Mum thought it was all insane. But then she fell in love with this,” he says, pointing to his mutation of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel masterwork.
“They even commissioned me to do something similar for their house, whatever I liked. Imagine that!”
While Bird has made personal sense of the prosaic and the cult of personality, his interest in the profane - “I'm surrounded by subversions of the sacred” - casts a universal commentary.
“Today, everyone is worshipping media and the shopping mall has become the cathedral. You wear fancy clothes to go to arcades where the architectonics and the hierarchy of space are religious. Spruikers preach under rose-tinted transparency that reminds you the outside world is still there. It’s just about buying more stuff and selling your soul.”