Fast Cars, Slow Sofas


Location South Williamsburg

Rent $600 (market, includes utilities)

Square feet 600 (attic in 1899 house)

Occupant Camille Hempel (jeweler-at-large)

Underpants on the wall! I had a pink birthday party so there are some remaining pink things.

You share a bathroom with four men! It has its pros and cons. I share a kitchen with them, too. I’ve lived in the house the longest. Everyone came after that. There have been at least 30 people over seven years.

You’re practically underneath the Williamsburg Bridge, so end-of-the-line industrial, with the weeds and the scrap yard. I think they send the chassis to South America.

The houses here look pretty old. The ceiling in Joe’s room fell in at Christmastime and in Rufus’s room last week. The back of the house fell off. That was years ago.

What’s this about your having a 1969 red El Camino? It’s my third. I had two Ford Rancheros before that. I like fixing them up. I’m from Janesville, Wisconsin.

What’s that shelving unit with the silver door compartment? Freezer bookcases. I make them out of freezer drawers. Open this and it lights up.

This book called A Pattern Language says that “there is a need in people to live with a secret place in their homes . . . ” The book quotes Gaston Bachelard: “Wardrobes with their shelves . . . chests with their false bottoms are veritable organs of the secret psychological life.” Yeah. My old boyfriend always put secret compartments in his furniture.

Let’s see the rest of the house. This is Sean’s room, Sean Kennerly.

I know him! The handsome Sean Kennerly. Look, his tiny room has hundreds of books, lots of Proust, and a drum set. The band practices in his room on and around his bed. They’re called “fakers.”

The CD cover reads: “fake you motherfaker.” OK! Our friend Sean Powell, the other Sean, is staying here because he’s the drummer. Here’s Rufus’s room, he’s the DJ. We just call this one the little room.

Mexican serape on the window. All these rooms have jean jackets on the floor. Here’s the way to my room. Watch your head up here. It’s a short-man’s room.

You have an oxyacetylene torch, needle-nosed pliers. My rubber molds are in a drawer over here. They’re for my jewelry work. All my stuff has moving parts. Look, I’m obsessed with couches. I’ve photographed hundreds and hundreds on the streets, ones people throw out.

Your photo album’s titled, “So Many Sofas, So Little Time.” An orange velvet next to blue trash cans. This brocade’s all chewed up. The Hide-A-Bed with its insides showing, the shame. Seeing these couches, the height of domestication, on the rough streets and on the grass is so unsettling. It’s like this movie I saw where a deer was in a living room. Oh look, a couch with two auto tires sitting on it. They’re next to each other. I decided I’d use that for my wedding invitation.

I see you have a book, Making Out in Japanese. This couch photo is my favorite. I pulled my car up to it and used the headlights.

It looks like it’s about to be arrested. Did you ever see the greatest art installation in the world—Pepón Osorio’s “Scene of the Crime”? It’s the inside of an apartment, photos of the victims’ faces are zippered on to the backs of the dining room chairs. It is about violence invading the home. No I didn’t. This couch, I wanted to paint it. I put it on the curb. An hour later, it was on the porch across the street. It made me kind of jealous.

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