Rebecca Levy died. Her apartment, situated above Raven Row gallery in London, did not; instead, it became a work of art by Iain Baxter, Canada’s most prominent conceptual artist.
Here, Baxter re-imagines his classic 1966 piece Bagged Place in each nook and cranny of Rebecca’s abandoned flat, wrapping clear plastic around the contents of which previously had been donated “intact” to the gallery from her family. Unsurprisingly, Rebecca’s Bagged Place, this 2013 rendition (collected here), seems to have more of a personal feeling, which immediately brings a new spark to not just Baxter’s work, but also, the underlying narrative or intention. This is not about sterilization nor consumerism, instead, it’s about Rebecca: her past, present, and future.
Before Rebecca’s things were bagged, they were alive because she was alive holding them, sitting in them, staring at them, and touching, loving, or losing them. Now that she has passed, her habitat is still and quiet, at least momentarily until the room slowly disassembles from one new pair of hands to the next. The thought of an interior space collapsing and dividing seems like a final goodbye, and the preservation of that farewell, heartbreakingly seems like an inability to confront death and an almost tragic prolonging of life. A room on life-support. How as viewers do we fall into the room? What do we take from it and where do we stay? When will we let go?
In this piece, amidst all the plastic isolation, the subject shifts with our own anxieties, daydreams, or curiosities in reaction to such careful preservation. We start to imagine Rebecca as we imagine ourselves: our own deaths, our own rooms, our own limbo before the dismantling. In this sense, Rebecca’s Bagged Place mirrors our own, and strangely we are Rebecca looking in from the outside.