Rhonda Weppler / Trevor Mahovsky

Twilight Antiques & Thrift

1 December 2018–6 January 2019, 5–10pm nightly
M St NW / Pennsylvania Ave NW / 28th St NW
Washington, DC
Georgetown GLOW

Twilight Antiques & Thrift is a life-scale representation of an antique and thrift store in the form of a lantern, and is inspired by such events as the Singapore Lantern Festival and Basel's Fasnacht. This is the latest edition in a series of such installations that we have integrated into the retail landscapes of many Canadian and American cities. In each case the store-sized lanterns are filled with hundreds of smaller lanterns, representing a cacophony of products stocked inside them, which are given away during a festival event, staged to act out a fantasy scenario in which everything in the world is free. During the event, the implications and effects of advertising, appropriation and the gift play against one another, within a festival context.

For Twilight Antiques & Thrift, 500 smaller lanterns line the shelves of the transparent store, each a reproduction of a used object. These lanterns have been hand-assembled by us, from digital copies of our growing collection of objects, to which they have added many found in Georgetown stores, including a Georgetown University yearbook from 1961, and rusted cans of vintage Old Georgetown beer.

The resulting cornucopia—including books, toys, kitchenware and radios—touches upon many aspects of life and moments in history. It is an incomplete but ongoing archive of the world, in which the world is digitally photographed or scanned, then reconstituted in three dimensions. Rummaging through it is to be reminded of the way the familiar world slips away, through obsolescence and wear and tear. In the lanterns, scuffs and scratches digitally copied from original objects are back-lit by the glow of LED lights. This exaggerates the object’s nostalgic appeal, as its worn surface is turned into a sign shining alongside the other illuminated shop windows, advertisements and signage found throughout Georgetown.

Each evening during the event the lanterns will be lit one by one, via a computerized controller, until the whole store is lit, as if a phantom shopkeeper were stocking the shelves. Once the store is fully lit, the lanterns will then begin to extinguish one by one, as if purchased by phantom shoppers. For the final night of the exhibition, visitors will be welcomed at the store by the artists, and invited to select a free lantern to take. The store is darkened for a final time, and after a long process of accumulation the lighted lanterns disperse through the city on eccentric paths to unknown destinations.