The Creepy Questions Brought Up by (Hotel) XX

How an art exhibit about lingering moments lingered itself

When the theme “Stranger Comes to Town” was first announced by the organizers of this year’s SPRING/BREAK art fair, curator Indira Cesarine found it was a perfect opportunity to explore a concept she had been ruminating on for a while.

“I just felt like it was a perfect fit of the theme of a stranger comes to town, and the notion of the stranger that stays in hotels, and the varied experiences that people have, and the fact that you visually see the experiences and memories that take place in the same hotel room through artwork,” she said of her exhibit, (Hotel) XX, which took up two spaces of last week’s fair.

Drawing on the work of Hitchcock and surreal television shows such as Twin Peaks and The Twilight Zone, Cesarine created an exhibition space that explored the intimate moments women have when alone in hotel rooms, mixed with the uneasy, mysterious, and somewhat surreal feeling of staying in a place frequented—even if only for the briefest of moments—by strangers. There were aspects of voyeurism, but also of familiarity.

Among the 24 female-identifying artists (including Cesarine herself) in the show were painters Alexandra Rubinstein and Fahren Feingold; photographers Brittany Markert and Mairi-Luise Tabbakh; and Joetta Maue, who embroiders figures of sleeping people onto bed sheets.

“Their work speaks to the female gaze subject matter that the exhibit calls upon. I also sought out a few new artists that I haven’t worked with before,” she said. “And there were others that I’ve been working with for a really long time. I told them about the concept and they took the time to make original, new pieces for the show. I think more than 50 percent of the artwork was made specifically for the concept.”

Creating an immersive experience (she and her team dressed in hotel uniforms, “checking in” guests, and inviting them to explore the space), pieces had been conspicuously hidden in drawers and by the bedside table.

“People have really enjoyed finding all those hidden details, and escaping into this idea,” she mused. “To have them ask themselves What has happened in this hotel room before me? And Who else has slept in this bed? when they have stayed in a hotel.”

Indeed, it’s a question we’ve all asked ourselves in these temporary spaces at one time or another. But something we think about less is what we leave behind. And this is perhaps what Cesarine (and the artists she worked with) shed a light on best through (Hotel) XX—that our touch, our memories, our moments linger just as mysteriously as the strangers before us.

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