Unhappy With Camper | Letters | Chicago Reader

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Unhappy With Camper


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As a conceptual piece, Joel Ross's Room 28 [June 18], an installation in which Ross has checked into a hotel room, dismantled everything in it, and put the entire contents into 50 suitcases, is beautiful. No better image of America exists than the anonymity of a hotel room. Think where film noir would be without hotel rooms. We travel across this immense landscape passing the time in hotel rooms. Hotel rooms hold secrets: murders are committed there, clandestine relationships flower there, money changes hands there. Hotel rooms are at the heart of any city culture. Can we find the secret life of hotel rooms by taking away the objects in suitcases? Would we then "own" the mystique of it all? And the achieving of the piece is inspiring itself. Imagine quietly taking apart everything in a room in one night and fitting those things into suitcases. Imagine loading the car with them, silently, inconspicuously, in the morning. Faced with a project as witty, as fulsome as this one, with as many connotations, Fred Camper has the fresh insight to point to vandalism as an issue! As if most of the crap he reviews isn't merely a defacement of otherwise pristine walls! And he believes the frisson of the piece is that what Ross did was illegal and he might spend jail time for it! In a country busy decimating most third-world countries, in a city where the mayor excuses the cops every time one of them blows apart a citizen "by mistake," Camper is upset over vandalism by an artist? Where are the surrealists when we need them? And as far as damaging the hotel's revenue (another weighty issue), I recently saw on TV news that one of the big hotel chains has commissioned an artist to cover the entire inside of one of its rooms in--cheese! Yes, cheese--the chairs, bed, floor, walls, lamps, everything is covered in cheese. It was revolting and, considering a use of food that some hungry folk might have liked to have used in a less artistic manner, absolutely repugnant. But since that hotel management is making money out of it by showing it off to its customers, the hotel room that Ross "emptied" is now no doubt raking it in. And actually, I wouldn't mind seeing it myself. Camper, get out of the art business--it's too dangerous for you.

Mara Jones

North side

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