Robyn Stacey: Guest Relations

While travelling within a large populated city, it can be easily forgotten that amongst the congested streets are hidden isolated rooms where people are constantly shifting through for their own means. The brief confinement of a hotel room can bring about notions of contemplation as one sits and observes their surrounding.

Photographer Robyn Stacey, allows a glimpse into these personal spaces with her series ‘Guest Relations’. The viewer is presented with photographs of guests in their hotel rooms living in their own secret realities. The observer is granted permission to scrutinise these confidential moments and piece together the components to write their own narrative. There is something unusual about these images, on the walls of the hotel rooms, large-scale pictures of the outside world materialise and transform the structural interior into something new. Chairs, beds and sofas all fade away as they serve a different purpose, they are now the backdrops for something visually challenging. The mirrored outdoor reflections mimic a dreamlike scenario causing a feeling of disorientation by skewing the perspective of an unanswered reality.

The idea for ‘Guest Relations’ occurred during an arts residency at the Sofitel in Melbourne. The body of work, as Stacey explains, “explores the hermetic nature of the hotel room and its transient nature, whether it is experienced as a mode of transit between source and destination, or as the constructed world of inward-directed experience, it is a world with a time limit, surrendered to the temporary and ephemeral.” The chosen setting underpins a deeper understanding of the ordinary and functional hotel room. Guests incorporate the space into their lives for a temporary period of time. These hideaways have the capability of shielding guests from turbulent surroundings however, the settings depicted in ‘Guest Relations’ blatantly expose unavoidable and prominent cityscapes making the occurrences outside impossible to ignore.

Stacey created the photographs by turning the hotel room into a camera obscura; a traditional photographic technique whereby the light source is completely covered except for a small hole which allows light to shine through and project an inverted image of the outside scene onto the walls, ceiling and floor. Your eyes follow the contours of uneven roads, buildings that defy all aspects of gravity and oceans that appear to be continual skies.

Camera obscura can be difficult to achieve, they are completely weather dependent and can sometimes only last for a couple of hours to as little as 40 minutes. Within this time constraint, the chosen subjects need to be appropriately positioned ready for a long exposure, captured in their perfect state just before the projected scenes diminish. While picturesque, we witness occupants who seem to be in deep thought, at times alone, perhaps feeling indifferent towards their unfamiliar and temporary homes which are absent from their personal touch. Are these scenes reflecting the guest’s day dreaming thoughts?

The world beneath the hotel room is forever present, relentlessly evolving, overwhelmed with detail that it is bewildering to think that some of us do not notice. For some, only until the outdoor landscape is cast in a rare or unfamiliar way do they really become aware of its immense beauty. This is precisely what ‘Guest Relations’ achieves, alerting our attention to a sometimes underestimated appreciation of where we sit in the scheme of things.

Jan Manton Art
2 July to 2 August, 2014

Room 2212 Sofitel – Lesley, 2013-14, C-Type print
Room 2418 Marriott Brisbane – Mess, 2013-14, C-Type print
Room 1817 Sofitel Brisbane – Daryl, 2013-14, C-Type print
Room 1817 Sofitel Philip, 2013-14, C-Type print

Courtesy the artist and Jan Manton Art