Clean Room, 2013: Artist Statement
Clean Room is a contemplation of an empty space territorialised by gas.
The installation uses late-capitalist consumer disposables (automatic air “fresheners”) to muse on how and why we use gases, smoke, vapour and mists to traverse or fill spaces and thereby affect, move/remove or destroy people in those spaces.
Perfume (from the Latin per fumum, meaning through smoke), employed by even the earliest civilisations, are substances that release a “pleasant” gas into the atmosphere for the purpose of attracting others. Conversely, toxic smokes have been used to repel or poison enemies for almost as long, most infamously in the gas chambers of Nazi Germany.
Somewhere in between these extremes, lies the use of the automatic air freshener, a device once confined to the most desperately under-serviced public facilities, but now advertised as a household essential for every room:
"Living and breathing in air that is laced with subtle top notes of lavender will only do good things to you and your family. And for your many guests who will swing by, it will be more than a pleasant experience."
The meaning of this trite and somewhat creepy advertising blurb is as ambiguous as the use of a home air freshener itself; is this a case of eliminating bad (smells, bacteria) or producing good (fragrance, atmosphere, environment)? Are we using this product to remember a fragrance or forget a stench?
If, as Nietzsche proposes, human consciousness comprises a balance of remembering and forgetting, were the gas deaths of the German concentration camps, American prisons or Japanese subway attacks attempts to remember, uphold or act upon a duty to society or, conversely, a way to “cleanse”, deny or forget elements of that society?
Although the gas used in Clean Room consists only of a harmless propellant distributing a fine mist of synthetic “Ocean Breeze”, the installation offers participants the opportunity to ponder what this olfactory confrontation evokes for them.