John Van Houten

Fine Artist, Instructor, Illustrator

K’s Room

In a consumerist world where urban expansion sprawls upwards and developments subdivide inwards, K’s Room exists in an absurdist kafkaesque world. Inspired by real-life extreme living conditions, the artists imagine a cohabitable space in a dystopic parallel reality. Remnants of the artists’ personal lives mix together in a slurry of despair and dysfunction.

K’s Room is a collaborative art installation between myself, Martin Chittum, and Xie Xingliang. This project is the result of a multiweek residency in Beijing, China. Weeks of research and collaboration culminated in the Antipodal group exhibition at University at Buffalo. Antipodal was a group exhibition of collaborative works between Tsinghua University MFA artists and University at Buffalo MFA artists. Antipodal articulates something of the experience of working across the globe as creative thinkers who are at once collaborators, counterparts, and enigmatic strangers.

In K’s Room, we make a commentary on the housing market, specifically in Hong Kong. As rent soars and real estate only expands upwards, it’s not uncommon for Hong Kong residents to live in cage apartments smaller than US parking spaces. The “K” in K’s Room refers to the Kafkaesque (characteristic or reminiscent of the oppressive or nightmarish qualities of Franz Kafka’s fictional world).

K’s Room is the speculative apartment that Van Houten, Chittum, and Xingliang would share in a dystopia of social credit and crowded living spaces. Populated with their own possessions both functional and sentimental, viewers are given a look into the depressing living conditions of Hong Kong residents, as well as an all too real fictional habitat for three artists trying to move forward in a difficult situation.

Photos by Martin Chittum

© 2024 John Van Houten