At The Chair Factory
January 20 - February 19 2023
Ian Willms and Liam Crockard
A part of DesignTO Festival
Ian Willms and Liam Crockard spent their formative years in the late 90s and early 2000s teaching themselves photography by forcing their way into every abandoned space in their hometown. Unknowingly capturing the nadir of an economic depression that lasted for decades, there was one building that never shuttered, collapsed, or found a new life as a flexible work space. One building in downtown Kitchener that still produces to this day what the flaked and fading text states on the exterior: FURNITURE.
Returning home in 2019, Willms and Crockard spent two weeks at Krug Furniture methodically exploring the 140 year old building and its routines. Accumulating hours of video footage and dozens of rolls of film, the artists fell into their own 9 to 5, seeking to create a portrait of this genuine curio of industrial production. The result is something between How It’s Made and classic durational cinema; the middle ground between hypnotic observation and quiet critique. It applauds craftsmanship but does not shy from the routines that absorb it, celebrating the human expression that asserts itself in incidental ways: tchotchke-laden workbenches, community announcements in breakrooms, and graffiti in the rafters. Change happens gradually and accumulates in place - a rolling stone gathering plenty of moss. This exhibition examines the reciprocal ways in which the space informs the work, and the workers inform the space.
Dividing the periods of documentation between two gallery spaces allows the work to function as connected bodies of work separated by medium and temporal experience.
Situated in the south gallery, viewers encounter a de facto cinema: a hanging screen and projection with folding chairs in an otherwise empty space. At The Chair Factory (February) is a methodical 3 hour video document of Krug Furniture and its inhabitants, from boilerroom, to office, to warehouse to breakroom. Compressing an 8 hour shift into 3, Willms and Crockard create an analog of the plumb’s working hours with that of Krug. Footage never repeats and viewers experience entire processes and actions in real time.
The northernmost gallery in the plumb houses At The Chair Factory (June) in which Willms and Crockard returned to Krug in the summer to document the same spaces and people with 35mm film. Eschewing a tight edit, June is equally comprehensive, wrapping the space with 215 unique prints out of hundreds taken. Many familiar faces and objects return in this body of work, but viewers take in the images at their own pace. Also situated in the north gallery are five collaborative sculptures entitled Fifteen, Thirty, Fifteen. These functional benches reference the common methods Willms and Crockard have observed at Krug and elsewhere for fashioning an improvised seat for a coffee, smoke, nap, chat or otherwise. Conceived of as an extension of Crockard’s All Thumbs furniture project, the benches encourage a more communal experience of time in June as opposed to a more immersive one in February.
Ultimately drawing a connection between art-spaces and their former lives as industrial sites, Crockard and Willms’ project considers how production - of meaning, of value - continues long after the whistle blows and the cards are punched.
The artists would like to recognize the Ontario Arts Council for their funding of this project and offer thanks to: Sam Gaudet, Meg Delaire, Scott and Barb Crockard, Tim Spiegelberg, Lisa Willms, Bill Reitzel, Alex Wittholz, Kevin Boothe, Callum Schuster, Kim at Park Agency, Jennifer Horne, Reagan Little, Anil Pathak and the employees of Krug Furniture.
Photo documentation by Alison Postma