Fiona Tan, Ghost Dwellings, installation view. Courtesy the artist and Frith Street Gallery, London. Photographer: Alex Delfanne
Fiona Tan, Ghost Dwellings, installation view. Courtesy the artist and Frith Street Gallery, London. Photographer: Alex Delfanne

Step through the doors of Frith Street Gallery in London’s Soho, and you become voyeur to an unknown character’s life. Artist Fiona Tan has transformed the gallery space into the cluttered apartment of a reclusive figure for her new exhibition, Ghost Dwellings, complete with the detritus of everyday existence.

Stacks of newspapers fill the floors of the gallery’s first space, reimagined as a living room. They strain under the weight of National Geographic issues, old travel guides and assorted knick-knacks. Opposite, a half-played game of chess sits waiting on a side table.

Objects fill every surface of this fictional home – or perhaps it could even be a squat? Newspaper clippings offer a snapshot of a world in crisis, collected by someone desperate to make sense of what’s outside their private sphere.

Fiona Tan, Ghost Dwellings, installation view. Courtesy the artist and Frith Street Gallery, London. Photographer: Alex Delfanne
Fiona Tan, Ghost Dwellings, installation view. Courtesy the artist and Frith Street Gallery, London. Photographer: Alex Delfanne

Ghost Dwellings is the latest in a stream of exhibitions in London that conjure domestic environments, turning the gallery space into a total work of art. With echoes of Elmgreen & Dragset’s Tomorrow at the V&A, and Robin Brown’s apartment installation at Frieze Masters, Ghost Dwellings is absorbing and unsettling in equal measure.

Moving through the rooms, it feels like you’re just footsteps behind the apartment’s owner; as though, touching the crumpled bed sheets, you’d still find them warm.

Fiona Tan, 'Ghost Dwelling II', Detroit. 2014.  Courtesy the artist and Frith Street Gallery, London.
Fiona Tan, ‘Ghost Dwelling II’, Detroit. 2014. Courtesy the artist and Frith Street Gallery, London.

Into this domain, Tan projects a series of films, propelling viewers beyond the gallery and into abandoned disaster zones across the world. One film roams the rubble of factories in Detroit, while another explores skeletons of ‘luxury’ housing towers neglected after the financial crash in Cork.

Though Tan’s camera documents these abandoned spaces, what she searches for is life within these vacant worlds. As within the gallery, it always feels just beyond reach.

‘Fiona Tan: Ghost Dwellings’ runs until 31 July at the Frith Street Gallery. A concurrent exhibition by Tan titled ‘Inventory’ runs at their Golden Square space until 26 June.

Betty is the Editor of The Spaces.

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