Why is there a resort motel under construction in C3 Lab?

If you were standing on Distribution Street staring at co-working space C3 Lab (not sure why you would be, that would be weird), you would have no clue that Jeffrey Barninger of Union Shop Studios was constructing a four-room resort motel inside.

It will be fully open to the public June 10. Not to stay in — that would also be weird. Rather, this four-room, one-office motel is an interactive art installation created in collaboration with multidisciplinary performance ensemble TAPROOT. The project, called No Vacancy, is backed by funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and will feature art by Micah Cash, Katie Lloyd and Todd Stewart.

Throughout the summer, the space will host performances by a diverse group of other artists.

Within the 10-by-10 rooms, Barninger, Cash, Lloyd and Stewart will be experimenting with the concepts of urban decay, gentrification and urban renewal. On June 10, for example, you’ll see one of the motel rooms containing a 3-D character Cash has created.

Cash said that character is searching for solace and has been “coming to this location and running away from problems and running away from the past, but you can’t truly run away.”

In this character’s room, members of the participant audience (that’s where you come in) can rifle through journals, photographs, maps and more to engage with the installation.

While most theatrical performances unfold on a stage built around a script, here the installation is being built and the show is largely unwritten.

Jeffrey Barninger and Micah Cash

Barninger said they’ll be bringing performers in to see what they can do with the space that was created.

June 10 will bring in musical artists Erik Button, Dust & Ashes and Patabamba (plus brews from Three Spirits Brewery).

TAPROOT artistic director Brianna Smith expects the performers will consider the questions, “What have they built, how does that speak to me, what do I build off of that? How do I interact with this actively and how do I encourage the audience to interact with it?”

Then, if an artist or participant audience member writes on a wall or punches a hole in it, for example, one of the installation artists like Cash could change his installation to adapt to those impulses.

“So there’s this constant dialogue back and forth,” Smith said.

Which means they have no idea what the installation will look like at the end of the summer.

“The piece we’re building at the end of the summer is a reflection not only of what (the artists) have done but how the audience has interacted with it, and some of their ideas,” she said.

The participant audience can can go through drawers, pick objects up or send messages to friends through the mail from events. Social media pictures and video with the hashtag #NoVacancyCLT will be compiled and viewed as source material for performers. Outside of the performances, people can stop by and experience the rooms while they listen to narratives by Transcend Charlotte on the NoVacancyCLT app.

And it’s all part of a bigger picture.

Barninger pointed out how areas like South End have “so many of these really cool buildings (that) are just being torn down without a lot of thought being put into what was this building, how cool was this when it was first built, what can we do with this rather than tear it down?”

Smith added, it’s about “looking at how spaces change people and people change spaces.”

The events

(Note: Beer at all events will be free with ticket purchases.)

June 3: Press event and unveiling of installation phase

June 10: Erik Button, Dust & Ashes and Patabamba performing, with brews from Three Spirits Brewery

June 17: Charlotte Storytellers performing

June 19: Workshop and performance by Breathing Art Company

July 1: Performance by DJ Matthew Conley

July 15: Performance of Consciously Damaged Goods (Toby Shearer/Megan Payne), with brews from Birdsong Brewing

July 17: In-process performance by TAPROOT

July 25-29: Summer Camp, building site-specific work by Behailu/TAPROOT

July 29: Behailu Academy Student Exhibition

Aug. 7: In-Process Performance by TAPROOT

Aug. 11: [UNTITLED] TAPROOT Pay-what-you-can night

August 12-21: [UNTITLED] TAPROOT Performances

Aug. 28: Final day of exhibition

C3 Lab: 2525 Distribution St.

Photos: Katie Toussaint