Aussie musician Fascinator on designing a New York Hotel Room for The Carlton Arms

From Banksy to Robert Lewis and Bruno Tanquerel, over 150 artists have left their mark on New York’s unique museum-meets-hotel, The Carlton Arms, converting rooms into one-of-a-kind art experiences. One of the latest artists to contribute to the project is Australia’s own Johnny Mackay, formerly of Children Collide, who now resides in New York and performs as Fascinator.

Earlier this year, Mackay spent six weeks in the hotel fitting out the room, whilst simultaneously creating an original soundtrack for the room, which loops 24 hours a day (guests can turn it up or down). Dubbed “The Fascinator Suite”, the result is an oceanic abyss that he’s described as a physical manifestation of his subconscious, filled with music created specifically for the room, and tastes of his backcatalogue. Hot on the heels of his Australian tour, and with his new album Water Sign available now, we caught up with Mackay to learn more about the room and the experience.

How did your involvement in this project come about?

An artist friend who’d previously done a room there recommended me. I’m not particularly handy and definitely not known for visual art but I guess through my videos he convinced the curators to let me pitch them.

Talk us through your design approach – what ideas did you start with and how did it develop from there?

Well, the idea was that the room was would be a physical representation of my subconscious. The process I went through to try and visualise that were these therapy sessions where I’d get walked through my own mind and would invariably end up in a very blue ocean type situation. I then let that inform the design. There was a lot of experimentation with materials at the start but I eventually settled on a thick band of hexagonal mirror tiles to give a bit of an infinity room feeling bordered with pyramid acoustic foam. A material I later realised I’ve been quite close to at a lot of the more pivotal and stressful times in my life…i.e. trying to get vocal takes right on recordings.

What’s your favourite aspect of the end result?

Well I can tell you my favourite moment was pulling the final bit of protective coating off the last hexagonal mirror tile about 20mins after we opened. I am also very happy with all the music I created. I also think I went some way to creating the feeling I was aiming for. It’s a weird, non-tangible sense of achievement I guess because it’s interpretation is so subjective.

Was there anything you wanted to do but couldn’t?

I wanted every person who entered the opening to be made to put on a white kurta, blonde wig and glasses so only Lord Fascinator’s were entering my subconscious. I didn’t want it messed up with all these outsiders. Unfortunately I just didn’t get time to implement this.

Would you do something like this again?

Definitely. I assume David Walsh of MONA reads every article on here so I’ll just address this to him personally.:

Hello Dave,
I’d love to come down and transform one of your hotel rooms sometime soon.
Just set up a little piece of my subconscious right next to where I left my heart in Tassie.
Warmest regards,
Lord Fascinator

How the room looks now!

To stay in Lord Fascinator’s room at The Carlton Arms in Grammercy, New York, head to their official website and request room 14D. You can read a bit more about the room and see some “before photos” HERE

Fascinator’s new album Water Sign is out now. His Australian tour takes him to the Oxford Art Factory in Sydney on June 21st and The Workers Club in Melbourne on June 23rd before returning to NYC. For more details head to his Facebook Page.


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Larry Heath

Founding Editor and Publisher of the AU review. Currently based in Toronto, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter @larry_heath or on Instagram @larryheath.

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