For a glimpse into the contemporary intersection of virtual and real worlds, one need look no further than commercial, liminal environments such as store display windows or trends like home staging—the decorative art of employing decoy furniture and belongings to make a home look more “real” and attract potential buyers. Shawn Maximo’s artistic work is informed by his design and architectural practice of creating storefronts for brands like Gucci and MAC Cosmetics as well as experimental sets and virtual renderings with the art collaborative Yemenwed. The superimposition and collision of disparate visual references are recurring techniques used by Maximo, for example in his series Neighboring Interests (2013), for which he rendered images combining generic architectural spaces with alien functions. Think of a hospital bed at the center of a food-court setting furnished with chairs designed by Konstantin Grcic. The result calls attention to the fantastical forms generated by consumer culture and lifestyle imaging—a combination of mismatched styles leading to absurd form yet somehow logical function.
At KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Maximo made interventions in a degendered bathroom. The redesign included an installation of walls and flooring, which display large-scale photographs of hyper-real environments simultaneously evoking indoor and outdoor spaces. A hybrid interior space looks out to the exterior. The usual toilets have been replaced by a floor squat. While capitalizing on private zones as last remaining sites for near undisturbed attention, the restrooms were turned into an info center during the 9th Berlin Biennale—conflating spaces of private relief and public distribution and participation.
Shawn Maximo’s installation was on display from June 2016 until April 2018.