Instant Coffee is a Toronto and Vancouver-based artist collective. Through formal installations and event-based activities, they build public places to practice, where ideas, materials and actions can be explored outside of the isolated studio and in a manner that renegotiates traditional exhibition structures, but is still supported by them. Instant Coffee’s frequent practice is to build architectural installations, that are, at times ironic, reconstructions of spaces of leisure. For example, Urban Disco Trailer (a retrofitted Holiday Cruiser); One is Never Enough (a sunken living room); Get Social or Get Lost (a bedroom); and Wish You Were Here (four free-standing kitchen nooks) were used by the collective to highlight the relationship between form and social interaction. These social sculptures are typically both inclusive and exclusionary.
The Instant Coffee Disco Fallout Shelter (DFS), for the festival subvision, overtly extends the theme of exclusivity. While Instant Coffee might ‘wish you where here‘, fallout shelters by their nature are places limited to a small group of people. In the case of the DFS, it is only open to all the members of Instant Coffee. The fallout shelter is an icon of the cold war and the threat of nuclear war. It is, ultimately, designed to reduce exposure to radiation and radioactive debris. Governments, from first world USA to poverty stricken Albanian, built fallout shelters for elite groups of high-ranking officials. In 1961, the CBC built a shelter on their Toronto grounds and as amedia stunt had a family live there for a week. On emerging, one of the family members stated: ‘We not only survived, we thrived‘. This was in connection to the Emergency Measures Organization, which at that time broadcast nationwide simulation of a nuclear attack – over 2 million people fictitiously died. Fallout shelters were very expensive to build so most people would have been left out in the nuclear dust. Instant Coffee’s DFS is a glitzed-up and powder coated re-articulation of these prolific and often makeshift mid-twentieth century places built from fear. Abrightly coloured pathway leads to the shelter’s sparkling entrance where a low bass beat can be heard from the dance music being played inside. At the end of the path is a small viewing kiosk containing a video feed of Instant Coffee members playing records, eating spaghetti, dancing, reading, sleeping and just hanging out in the tight confines and under the protective barrier of shelter. At play here is the tenuous relationship between this exclusive lifesaving hideaway, the nature of the collective as being selective, and the viewing kiosk where those outside can only observe and imagine what is really happening inside.
Instant Coffee: Get Social and Get Saved! instantcoffee.org