ART SEEN presents THE BED SITTING ROOM (Richard Lester, 1969) with Aïda Ruilova, Aldo Tambellini, and Elizabeth Price (Buy Tickets)
Imagine if Luis Buñuel and Monty Python made a film and you’ll get a sense of Richard Lester’s surrealist post-apocalyptic farce, The Bed Sitting Room. It is perhaps the strangest “last men on earth” film ever made and that you’ll ever see but it’s also the most wonderful.
This Art Seen screening of The Bed Sitting Room along with artist films by Aïda Ruilova, Aldo Tambellini, and Elizabeth Price, is a reprisal of film program at Toronto’s Power Plant Gallery called Keep Moving: objects and architecture in the apocalypse. This title stems from the phrase “keep moving” that’s constantly uttered throughout The Bed Sitting Room because it connotes and pokes fun at the very British insistence of “Keep Calm, Carry On” in the face of hardship. But in a larger sense, it embodies society’s general resistance to change and, in terms of disaster, reveals our general reluctance to pave a new way forward in favor of repeating the same old. Which is what happens in our psychedelic new London…
Based on a play of the same name, The Bed Sitting Room takes us through the post-nuclear London landscape following World War III (aka the shortest war in history) where the bomb, ironically the one thing that none of the twenty survivors can speak, dropped and unexpectedly changed the world…not that these remaining Londoners acknowledge this. Finding themselves living in this bizarre new existence, they cling to the familiar same: travel and job routines, generating electricity, appointing a new Queen (dear old Mrs. Etheyl Shroake). But their natural attachment to objects in a city now littered with shoes, suitcases, millions of discarded things when the old order of life shifts as a new post-war effect takes place…they begin to turn into things themselves. A bed sitting room, a closet, and even a bird (all with the power of human consciousness and speech) are the mutated forms of life. Although designed for the audience to laugh at the absurdity of this new existence, The Bed Sitting Room reveals there is a real horror in acknowledging the possibilities of what might happen when the world changes. But, of course, one must do it with a sense of humor.
Inspired by Mike Nelson’s the immersive installations in his exhibition Amnesiac Hide (containing an insane amount of collected and arranged discarded objects) and their relationship to Lester’s The Bed Sitting Room, this film program reflects on how objects and space define the void-like world that is in relation to the end of all things. Aïda Ruilova shows various objects of the late Carlo Mollino (the mysterious figure who was an architect, designer, race car driver, and photographer) in her two short films, 7 Things Carlo Mollino (2006). Once possessions, these things now function as remaining artifacts of this enigmatic figure as housed in his home-come-museum in Turin. Aldo Tambellini’s Black Trip 2 (part of his Black Films series, 1965-67), is a non-photographic film; a mixture of found imagery, sound, and artistic manipulation of film negatives. As Tambellini states it’s an, “internal probing of the violence and mystery of the American psyche seen through the eye of a black man and the Russian revolution.” Lastly, Turner Prize winner Elizabeth Price’s User Group Disco features the fictional architectural building the Hall of Sculptures in which objects are presented as contemplations of consumerism, role as artifacts, the archive. They draw upon philosophical and historical materialism, surrealism and institutional critique to try and understand what objects are, and what they do.
Since we’ll never really know what the end of the world will look like, one can only hope that if the apocalypse ever arrives that it’s a little something like Richard Lester has imagined: determined, re-constructed and absolutely bonkers. And until that indescribable moment arrives, we can also enter into the worlds created by artists films like those shown here that remind us of where we are and where we may be going. KEEP MOVING!