Andrew Berardini has a long list of accomplishments and enthusiasms: he is an American art critic, writer, and curator of contemporary art; he has published articles and essays in numerous art publications; lectured on art history at the Southern California Institute of Architecture and has guest lectured widely. He was recently made adjunct assistant curator at the Armory Center for the Arts in Pasadena and is currently Los Angeles editor for Mousse and senior editor for Artslant. All this thinking and writing happens at a desk and a chair, which become - between dropping off and picking up his daughter at school- a room of his own.
Space is an awfully difficult thing to deal with. It’s not even really a thing, which I suppose is sort of the problem. I actually wish that space was just an emptiness waiting to be filled, a vacuum to easily occupy with dancing fantasies and comfortable sofas; a clean, well lighted place, but it, perhaps unfortunately for us, isn’t. For any space to exist, it has to have some parameters of reality, some boundaries or markers that make it a space. Take Montana, a spacious place by most popular reckoning, it has that huge blue dome painted with wisps of lonesome clouds, the horizon line stretching in all directions giving way to fields and plains and badlands and the feel of the earth and grass beneath your feet, the smell of dust or cattle or big-rig exhaust and the sound of Hank Williams or lowing cows or wind or Eminem echoing in your ears. Or, let’s take another space. Even the whitest white box of an art gallery, all accouterments stripped down to their most starkly minimal, still has all the connotations of what it is: the drywall and white paint, the polished concrete floor, the spot lamps. They all mean something, a spatial language developed over years and years of showing art. Even when reduced to what seem the simplest and most spacious places, they all still give shape to the liquid of space.
Thus, problem firmly if unresolvably in hand, the most ideal space to live and work in is even more troubling: the ideals of what can be and the necessary reality of what is. My current work space is a large wooden desk imported from Winnipeg by the artist who carved me out a corner of his studio, a couple hundred yards from my previous and still alternative workspace, my apartment. The desk is strewn with empty coffee cups and unused tea bags and brambles of sinewy cords. An overstuffed ashtray and a battered electric tea kettle preside over all the mess with a certain regal abjection. There’s an experimental bottle of since abandoned St. John’s Wort from Trader Joe’s hanging out next to lemon from the tree next to my house that I like to idly roll in my hand and sniff its citrus clarity when I’m blocked. A stack of art catalogues, magazines, and novels, supports the plastic CD case of my girlfriend’s most recent album as she, clad only in a see-through top and pumpkin orange tie that I gave her, alluringly beckons from a field of wallpaper paisleys.
Is this my ideal work space? This dank, windowless studio, this dirty desk. Yes it is. Perhaps one day I’ll find myself with laptop overlooking the Casbah or the ocean, with a view of the Eiffel Tower or some other obviously awesome sight, in the most comfortable chair ever built in the most beautiful space ever designed, but this space, the room I write from now, is here, ready right now for me to sit down in the ratty leather armchair with the broken leg, ready to simply and happily support my time and weight. As Virgina Woolfe once wrote, what every writer most simply needs, male and female, is a room of their own and the time to work in it. This dark untidy cell very happily affords me both. It’s joyous mess is the joyous mess of life. It’s bare fluorescent light-bulb gives me more than enough light to write. It’s simple existence, that it can exist, this free place for me to create, is ideal enough.
As I take another sip of cold black tea and I roll myself another cigarette, I lean back and survey my humble domain. Finally after all these years of struggle and sacrifice, I am so grateful to be here, now, in my ideal workspace.