Check into Isolation Hotel

Cantabrians are encouraged to put themselves in the frame in a new exhibition at Canterbury Museum. Isolation Hotel is a unique, immersive art experience by Auckland artist Heather Straka, brought to Christchurch by the museum in collaboration with SCAPE Public Art.

Visitors to the exhibition will check in to a specially-constructed set designed to evoke a once opulent but now run-down 1930s German hotel. The set forms the backdrop for a series of Straka’s own photographs, which feature a diverse cast of mysterious characters seeking sanctuary in the hotel.

These images recall the epic history and mythology paintings of Caravaggio, Rubens and Rembrandt, hinting at soap opera-esque backstories, secrets and dates with destiny. Straka hopes visitors will be able to find a character to identify with in her photos, but also use the set as a backdrop for their own photos that tell their unique stories.

A series of public programmes organised by guest curator Audrey Baldwin will see the set brought to life in a variety of ways throughout the exhibition. Planned programmes including life drawing, poetry, theatre, artists working in the space, film screenings and a cabaret performance.

Straka hopes museum visitors embrace the opportunity to express themselves on her set.

“I feel that a lot of art can alienate the viewer, but I hope Isolation Hotel does the opposite. I’ve left the experience open-ended and enigmatic so people can project their own dreams, desires and anxieties onto the scene. Isolation Hotel can mean whatever you want it to.”

Canterbury Museum Director Anthony Wright says Isolation Hotel is a unique experience and he’s thrilled to be hosting it. “Heather Straka has created a totally wacky experience – it’s certainly unlike anything we’ve had at the museum before! I’m sure it will generate a lot of fun.”

Isolation Hotel runs until March 20 next year.

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