Darbyshire's large-scale installation takes its form from the funhouse - the fairground or seafront attraction characterised by wobbly mirrors, undulating floors, and plastic ball pits - which reached its peak of popularity in the 1980s. While traditional funhouses make use of generic cartoon-like shapes and primary colours, Darbyshire's installation references the 'visitor-friendly' design language of much 21st-century British public and corporate architecture. Darbyshire's Funhouse calls into question the way in which the design of such spaces appeals to values such as inclusiveness, diversity and choice, but often flattens and oversimplifies them, emphasising an uncritical and stage-managed 'fun' over thoughtful and truly liberating engagement.
Architectural elements appropriated by Darbyshire include the Millennium Bull from Birmingham's Millennium Point Arts complex, adorned with soft drinks cans; a mural from the Coin Street Neighbourhood Centre in Waterloo; and an oversized ear from an Orange mobile phone shop in Glasgow. Borrowed or remade (sometimes with a telling twist), each of these fragments corresponds to features found in the traditional funhouse - a nostalgic remnant of an earlier leisure age.
Darbyshire's installation employs a palette of bright oranges, magentas, purples, and neon greens that will be familiar to anybody who has visited who has visited an urban regeneration area, an arts centre, or retail outlets such as Nike Town or The Apple Store. Hinting at the very particular way in which the state and commercial interests seek to control the public's experience of space and our conception of the public sphere, the artist's compendium of around 40 architectural motifs begs the question: 'is this a people's palace, or a very contemporary house of horrors?'.
Related website: www.thefunhouse.info