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Psycho-influenced art

Psycho-influenced art

Artist Cornelia Parker’s Transitional Object (PsychoBarn) which is currently on display at the Royal Academy of Arts Annenberg Courtyard, is a large scale sculpture standing at 30 feet tall. This artwork references two emblems of American domestic architecture, the classic red barn and the Bates motel mansion seen in Alfred Hitchcock’s film Psycho (1960).

"Psycho House". The Bates Motel in Psycho.
“Psycho House”. The Bates Motel in Psycho.

In turn, the ‘Psycho House’ in Hitchcock’s classic horror was modelled on a painting by Edward Hopper, House by the Railroad (1925). This painting was also a reference point for Parker’s artwork. She was drawn to its sparseness and sense of eerie isolation.

Edward Hopper, House by the Railroad, 1925 as seen on the MOMA website
Edward Hopper, House by the Railroad, 1925, as seen on the MOMA website

As with Hitchcock’s stage set, Parker’s house is not a real house but a scaled-down façade with the supporting structure deliberately visible behind, both characteristics adding to the illusionary effect. The combination of the red barn – with its connotations of rural wholesomeness – and the sinister psychological complexities of Hitchcock’s house, presents a series of deliberate paradoxes. Parker says it confronts the “polarities of good and evil”.

Cornelia Parker's Psychobarn in the RA courtyard
Cornelia Parker’s Psychobarn in the RA courtyard

As the RA puts it: “Psycho is a thriller illustrating the case history of the young Norman Bates, played by Anthony Perkins, whose deep attachment to his mother gives him a murderous split personality. Filmed in black and white with long, tense shots including little dialogue, Hitchcock crafts a slow burning suspense movie that leaves you constantly on edge. Using two iconic buildings as a background for the film: the Bates’ Motel and House, the architecture became the inspiration behind Parker’s PsychoBarn”.

The real “Psycho house” stands on the Universal Studios Hollywood backlot and features prominently in the Universal Studios tour. It has also made appearances in Murder, She WroteBig Momma’s House and the western Invitation to a Gunfighter. An article on OSM Weasel documents the life of the house which has been adapted in many ways since it’s construction for Psycho in 1959.

Where can I see the Psycho influenced art work?

Transitional Object (PsychoBarn) was originally commissioned for the Roof Garden of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and is now on display at The Annenberg Courtyard, Burlington House, Royal Academy of Arts, Piccadilly from 18 September 2018 (Open Daily 10am – 6pm, Friday 10am – 10pm).

Psycho screening and talk

Catch a special screening of Psycho, the film that inspired the art followed by a talk with the Metropolitan Museum of Art curator who originally commissioned Cornelia Parker’s work, which will examine the psychological associations of the architecture in the film.

Friday 23 November 2018, 6.30 — 9pm at The Benjamin West Lecture Theatre, Burlington Gardens, Royal Academy of Arts, Piccadilly

Book tickets >

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