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the mattress factory

Mattress Factory pitch black room with black light mist – foto by Smith

Before we came back from protesting the G20 summit in Pittsburgh, we stopped by the Mattress Factory, a two-building museum of installation art which I’d been avoiding because I’d thought it was the Andy Warhol Museum, since Warhol called his studio The Factory and they’re both in Pittsburgh.

You get off the elevator in the main building on the second floor and step into pitch black – have to walk by touch. Followed the wall around to a to a dead-end room with nothing in it, so followed the wall back around to a second room in which a large section of the wall was cut out and filled with a milky soft-white almost black-light mist that’s there yet not there that makes it impossible to see distance or dimension – it’s like dying and seeing the afterlife on the other side.

The third floor is an infinity mirror regression room flooded with deep violet almost black light, mirrors on all 4 walls and the ceiling, polka dots on the floor. Through an open door there’s a second brightly lit mirror room with white mannequins with red polka dots on them. Delightfully cheery, candy for the eyes, but the endless infinity can play with your equilibrium.

The fourth floor was a simple room with a hardwood floor into which had been cut out a long slanted oblong which leads through an irregular plastic tunnel to the outside where you could see a metal garden table and 2 chairs in the backyard across the alley. It’s hard to see from the foto, but the top of the oval is flush with the floor.

There was a courtyard with stone steps and doorways that lead nowhere and a wooden chair you could sit in surrounded by growing grass 4 foot tall, all bathed in electronic bird-like sounds.

The second building was four floors and a basement given over to a dozen or more local artists’ installations. One documented his failed suicide. Another was an interactive Jesus of Nazareth Crown of Thorns Ring Toss Game. The basement was dark with odd geometric forms containing lights that turned on and off and changed colors in response to eerie electronic music.

My favorite was going up the stairs to the 4th floor when I grasped the banister, jerked my hand back, grasped it again and laughed when I realized there was running water flowing down between the banister and the wall which had gotten my fingers wet.

There was a room of dozens of antique dolls, family fotos, memorabilia, sacred shrines and a TV sitting on the bed showing the probably now dead grandmother who’d had all these dolls and mementos in her house.

Further down the hall was a mechanized office desk stapler that kept attacking some sheets of paper that were blowing in the fan breeze.

Another room made you sit and pedal a floor bicycle to generate a shadow light show. The next was filled floor to ceiling and almost wall to wall with a massive cement-like sphere. The last room was an old kitchen they’d left as it was except they’d raised the floor at least three feet so the kitchen ink top was 8 inches off the floor — old, off and eerie.

It was a mostly playful place, except for the documented failed suicide, and the aftermath fotos of that looked painful.

So, three blogs on poetry, protest, and art out of a day and a half 260 mile round-trip adventure in Pittsburgh. That’s only 87 miles and 12 hours per blog. Not bad.

it is now
…maybe an idea of art?
fotos by Smith

3 Responses to “the mattress factory”

  1. MadM says:

    Thanks for the vicarious trip! I’ve wondered about this place for awhile, but have never had a reason to go to Pittsburgh.

  2. ke says:

    Wish I’d known this place was there when I’d last visited Pittsburgh.

    Lead on…

  3. Thanks so much for the kind words! Hope to see you back at the museum again sometime soon!

    Jeffrey @ the MF

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