Magic, upholstery, puzzles and speech contests

The Intention of This Installation
by Chloe Lane

My flatmate and her friend are going to vandalise our hallway for the St. Valentine’s Day party. They will use pink spray paint. It is piglet pink and convincing as the colour for indicating heart-shaped love.

‘So far I’ve got, love is the drug and love will tear us apart,’ says my flatmate.

‘Love is gay?’ I say.

‘I want it to have an Alice in Wonderland theme,’ she says.

‘Then you should probably write that up there too,’ I suggest. ‘Across the door, Alice in Wonderland themed, colon.’

‘What about sex war?’ she says.

I don’t know what that means.

They might also use black Sharpies, because Caroline wants to write scientific facts about how love is about science and not a mysterious force at all,and they will be too complex and long to write out legibly with spray paint.There will also be cardboard hearts.

The hearts have been cut out of pizza boxes, painted pink, and threaded onto long strings of nylon so they can hang like a butcher’s curtain, dividing the veranda from the outside. At the party, people struggle to move from one side of the cardboard hearts to the other. The nylon gets caught around their legs, in the zips of their jacket, in their hair, and, like fish trapped in a net, their tugging only makes it worse. More than one person trying to navigate this obstacle at one time makes the tangle messier and more amusing to watch.

This was not the intention of this installation. It was not intended to be so experiential.

The vandalism in the hallway gets guests gathering in small groups. They read the slogans on one side of the hall first, and then they turn around and read the others. My flatmate loiters nearby – she likes to reiterate the slogans. She is also there to offer them a pink Sharpie in case they might like to write their own slogan on the wall. Most of the guests are reluctant to write anything. They are reluctant to participate. Someone plays a tentative game of noughts and crosses near the door.

Then one of the guests gets drunker than the rest and starts knocking things over. She elegantly sprays – because she is an elegant performer – her red wine over another guest. She smashes a bottle of nail varnish on the kitchen floor, which no one will notice until the next day – mistaking the toxic smell for the pink spray paint instead. Then she leaves the residence for a couple of hours, making everyone worry, before coming back and dancing to Pat Benatar with her elbows up and her head nodding enthusiastically.

This is an indicator of a good party.

Late in the evening, my ex-boyfriend asks if he can write a slogan on the hallway wall. I hand him a pink Sharpie and leave him in there alone. From the lounge I can hear furious drawing and the squeak of the Sharpie being pushed too hard against the wall.

‘Are you okay in there?’ I yell.

‘Fuck,’ he says.

His slogan is not what I expect. He has written my name and then drawn an arrow pointing at something further along the wall. Because of the way the light is reflecting off the white wall, I have to get closer to see it properly. It’s some kind of monster. It’s sketchy, but it’s definitely some kind of monster. And it’s tapping at a keyboard or a piano. I wouldn’t say it was a happy monster.

My ex-boyfriend looks smug.

One of my flatmate’s friends has been living in Christchurch, where people have a different sense of humour. She has spent a lot of time in Christchurch, so this is not a new discovery. However, this issue comes up at the party and she has to get it off her chest.

‘Do you remember,’ she says, ‘that bag with the cats on it that said, cats are special friends?’

Some people nod.

‘They didn’t get it,’ she continues. ‘They didn’t think it was funny. It was like I was carrying around a bag with a dead cat inside.’

The day after the party it takes me an hour to sand the pink monster off the wall. As I am sanding I think about how the only other time I’ve sanded a wall like this was when I was about to paint it white for an exhibition.

When I next see him, I tell my ex-boyfriend I sanded off his drawing because it was gross and offensive. I also tell him that I got up at 5am to do this – that’s how upset I was, by the way.

‘I thought I was allowed to draw on the walls,’ he says.

‘Yes,’ I say, ‘but you were supposed to do something good. Something clever and in theme.’

‘It wasn’t you,’ he says. ‘That wasn’t an arrow pointing to the drawing. It was a line, a blank, to fill in. Chloe is. And then there’s a blank. What was wrong with the drawing anyway?’ he says.

‘It was offensive and badly executed,’ I say.

‘I thought it was pretty standard,’ he says, shrugging.

Now I’m thinking I shouldn’t have sanded off my name and
the yet-to-be-filled-in line, because actually that part was good. I could have made it a permanent installation – ongoing and forever changing.

‘Well,’ I say,‘I’m not laughing anyway.’

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