Stranger than Fiction

Stranger Than Fiction

curated by Chau V. Tran

Like a movie set or an imaginary world created in childhood game play, the eerily verisimilar space in Mayumi Terada’s Dollhouse 02-8, and Allen Bryan’s Tea Party oscillates between the artificial and tactile realities, public and private spaces, and the tension of time and space.

These still yet disquieting and ambiguous spaces, too unsettling for human presence, are situated where locality and time have become disjointed and distorted.

Mayumi Terada creates familiar, austere and intimate domestic spaces in her series Dollhouse. Made from wood, Styrofoam, and clay, Terada then photographs this seemingly simple, miniature world with atmospheric natural light. These interiors, though devoid of human presence, evoke an uncanny sense of lingering existence through small objects such as a curtain, a window overlooking scenic beauties, or in this photograph, a bathtub. As with most of the photographs in her series Dollhouse, the room and its sparse trappings are entirely white, confined and almost empty, no decoration, no history. Light permeates the interior gloom through a small window at the corner of the wall and the only object is partly bathed in soft light. The window gives a glimpse of other possibilities beyond this sparse, uninhabited space, but all that comes out of it is white, blinding light. Terada’s photograph defies any rational judgment of scale and proportion. The fabricated minimal design, the mundane everyday object, and the stark contrast of light and shadows, work together to create places that spring out of one’s memories. Her images operate between the realm of reality and recollection, of real and fiction. They puzzle such questions as when and where; of what might have been and may have disappeared; of something seemingly real but appearing at odds with reality.


Tea Party is a part of Allen Bryan’s series Comforts of Home, in which he seeks to portray the constant influx of human living spaces. If Mayumi Terada builds up her empty, melancholic miniature world as if she was reminiscing for something that was lost, Bryan uses digital imaging tools to reorganize fragments of everyday life. Unlike the stark spaces Terada crafts in her photographs, Bryan creates panoramic photographs of extremely clustered domestic spaces, using various images with different light sources, perspectives, and depth of fields. The more time one spends looking at the photograph, the more the space gradually unfolds, and what seems to be, at first glance, a normal scene from everyday life, turns out to be a seamless flow of contradictions. Found objects whose nature contradicts their associated placement confound expectations. This juxtaposition, within a realm where interior and exterior space folds in on each other, creates a scene of quiet chaos. The familiar, shielded nature of a domestic space is confronted by the unsettling elements that it contains in Bryan’s photograph.


With the series Dollhouse, Mayumi Terada sought to make photographs of spaces from her childhood memories while Allen Bryan’s Comforts of Home is the result of the artist’s search for a connection between the different spaces that he had photographed over the years. Just as time distorts our view of the past, we can never produce an exact photographic representation of the reality of those spaces when their image in our mind already grows pale. What these photographs offer is not a person or an object in a specific place at a specific time, but something that is hidden unconsciously in our thoughts and imagination, something that defies time and space, fiction and reality.

– Chau V. Tran, Fall 2014
Arts Administration Intern