‘Just Can’t Get It Together’ is an installation by Brenda Mabel Reid of soft (plush) building materials, including OSB, plywood and bricks, alongside real-life construction tools such as ladders, workbenches, buckets, hammers, etc. It juxtaposes soft, handmade print reproductions of real materials with tools needed to assemble buildings in a humorous and silly construction site. The work explores playfulness and humour while considering the barriers to housing and self-determined spaces. As we live in a time of affordable housing scarcity and high “cost of living,” questions around the right to housing, labour, profit, government (in)action, and spaces we make ourselves have become increasingly paramount.
The title, ‘Just Can’t Get It Together’, is an exasperated statement one might make directed at the government, trying to pay rent or to save for a downpayment — or from trying to build anything with these plush materials. The exhibition installation is deceptively light-hearted in its combination of child-like fun with themes of intense inequity and gatekeeping of construction knowledge/access from the public. The playful nature of the exhibition gives viewers a point of entry in imagining themselves in a new future of architecture.
The sculptures are made by hand-printing textures onto fabric; the process of making the work is quite laborious. There is imperfection in the printing process; the spoon rubbing the ink off the materials and onto the fabric leaves clear traces of labour in the work. It’s easy not to notice how much work goes into making a building and easier still to miss the labour present in the materials themselves. These plush materials are recognizably constructed, drawing our attention to details, the absurdity of this construction site and the disconnection we have to the creation of architecture and the making of space.