What better place to meet up with artist, filmmaker, writer, landscape architect and all-around charming Joseph Clement than at the Gladstone Hotel, the site of his upcoming installation Surrealestate
, a part of the annual design event Come Up to My Room. As enthusiastic as he is articulate, Clement bounds down the stairs, leading the way to his “room,” which is more of a landing on the staircase between the first and second floor of the hotel. It is from the windows overlooking the Gladstone’s lower green roof that one can experience Surrealestate
Being an experienced and passionate landscape architect, Clement has strived to combine his artistic eye with his love for Christmas trees. After spending weeks collecting his materials, he is set to explore our notions of natural and manufactured landscapes.
“I’m collecting a whole multitude of sizes of trees in order to construct this naturalized landscape where in front of the window it looks like a meadow clearing, and then starting with small trees, it comes up into being this naturalized landscape, so it hides the manufactured, synthetic landscape behind it.”
The landscape behind it is, of course, the soothing fluorescent lights of the FreshCo parking lot and an alleyway. This view already makes for a striking juxtaposition in the context of the Gladstone’s polished interiors, which makes Clement’s installation very intriguing; the trees will essentially mask a manufactured landscape with nature.
“But in fact, it is equally as much a manufactured and synthetic landscape as the one it’s concealing. But by nature of desire, what we’re trained to view as beautiful and ugly, it becomes a beautiful aspect of manufactured landscape.”
After all, he explains, the trees are completely dead! “It’s like hiding one synthetic landscape with another synthetic landscape, yet it appeases people’s desire, and, I think, it will create a level of complacency when they see greenery and all of a sudden, it’s like, it’s okay. Just because it’s green, it’s okay.”
Viewers will be able to experience the installation from two different vantage points. At the first window, at the top of the stairs, the viewer stands just below roof level, looking up at the trees, a vantage point that masks most of the backdrop. Heading up the stairs, however, a second window transforms the installation from an experience to an object of art.
“If they look back as they’re leaving, the installation and even the roof becomes more of an object in space of the FreshCo, the alleyway and the landscape.”
There are many bright things on the horizon for this multitalented artist and creator. At this point, he is looking forward to starting a new documentary, a couple of installation projects, and more work as a landscape architect. If you haven’t had the chance to experience the wild world of Joseph Clement, head down to the Gladstone and dive on in.
Come Up to My Room runs Thurs, Jan 24-Sun, Jan 27 at the Gladstone Hotel, 1214 Queen St W. comeuptomyroom.com
Curious about Clement? Check out his documentary Collecting Tasker.