If you were to win the lottery tomorrow, what would you do with the proceeds? Buy a car, perhaps? A holiday? A house? Or would you “invest” your winnings in thousands upon thousands of scratchcards, rubbing diligently away with a coin in a misguided attempt to accrue further jackpots?

The work of the Brooklyn-based architects known as Ghost of a Dream brings to mind somebody who has taken the latter option, regretted it and attempted to claw something back. Their installation Dream Car is a full-size replica of a Hummer – the elephantine former army vehicle beloved of gangsta rappers and the governor of California – made from $39,000-worth of used scratchcards. The second in the series, Dream Vacation, is a little desert island, of the single-palm-tree variety favoured by cartoon shipwreck victims. Conveniently, it is fitted with wheels (so it can be transported anywhere you choose) and has been fashioned from another $29,000-worth of spent lottery tickets. And the third – called, with a certain inevitability, Dream Home, and with which we concern ourselves here – puts another $70,000 of scratchcards to use in decorating a rather chichi dining room. In each case, the face value of the lottery tickets equates to the money that our putative jackpot-winner would have spent on the item (although for Dream Home, it represents the cost of the dining room alone, not the entire house).

But don’t thinking that artists Lauren Was and Adam Eckstrom are millionaire gambling addicts; they did not rub away at all of those foil surfaces themselves in the hope of striking it rich. “We started by picking them up off the street when we were walking the dog,” confides Adam, who first met Lauren at the Rhode Island School of Design (they began collaborating artistically shortly after they got married). The energy of the tickets’ gaudy colour schemes appealed to them, together with the sense that there was a melancholy story behind every piece of fluttering litter. “They’re like the remnants of people’s dreams – what goes in the trash afterwards,” says Adam. The pair began to frequent houses of gambling, the so-called “bets and butts” outlets that sell nothing but lottery tickets and cigarettes, and soon amassed an extensive collection. Friends in other states began to contribute to the hoard; it also turns out that there are various chancers round the world who sell job lots of spent scratchcards on internet auction sites – targeted, one can only assume, at obsessive collectors – who profited from Ghost of a Dream’s interest. As a result, the geographical spream is impressive, ranging from Illinois to Italy, New England to old England.

Eckstrom and Was sorted the various tickets by colour, before laying them down in intricate, kaleidoscopic patterns. In Dream Home, the wall panels are decorated with predominantly blue tickets, while those below the dado rail have recurrent notes of red. The result has something of the compelling geometry of Eastern decoration. “Some people think it looks Indian, some Islamic,” says Lauren. “When we were researching it we visited a lot of period rooms, mostly in southern Europe.” Everything that you see here is made from scratchcards – the chandelier, the crockery, the vase of flowers on the sideboard, even the sideboard itself – making it easy, in Lauren’s words, “to pack flat and bring back home”.

Well, almost everything. For ticking away at the heart of the clock on the sideboard is a Swiss timepiece (understandable, due to the impracticalities of creating a precision chronometer from little bits of paper). Its casing, however, is entirely made from paper – an origami of wasted dreams, the flimsy tickets twisted into little cabriole legs and other Rococo flourishes. The shape is based on a 19th-century design prevalent in the antique shops of Basel, where the installation was first staged as part of the international art fair in 2009. The canteen of cutlery, too, has a Swiss connection, being contained within a Wiskemann silverware case that the pair found in a Basel flea market. The faux-flatware was made from scratch using the iridescent, holographic borders of $20 “Billion Dollar Bonanza” tickets from Massachusetts. “The cutlery we chose to emulate was simply the silverware we had,” reveals Adam, “Although we made a few changes to fancy it up.”

The framed artworks on the walls are also collages of gambling ephemera, and the choice of images comments on the knotty relationship between culture and state-sponsored gambling. One, a picture of an angel, is derived from a fresco by HC Brewer in the lady chapel of St Peter’s church in Ealing – restored thanks to the beneficence of the Heritage Lottery Fund. The other, a copy of Holbein’s Lady with a Squirrel and a Starling from the National Gallery, plays on the idea of art acquisitions being funded by the profligacy of punters, and was also chosen because the painter was resident in Basel. A future version of Dream Home, planned for a possible show at the Nicholas Robinson Gallery in New York in 2011, will replace these Eurocentric images with a copy of something held by a US museum, and, excitingly, will also have a ceiling fitted.

Ghost of a Dream’s next projects – including a chandelier multiplied to infinity by a circle of mirrors – will widen their scope to include the covers of romantic novels as well as scratchcards. “They’re both ways of transporting yourself into a different future,” says Lauren. And both rooted in a similarly naive sense of aspiration. This, Dream Home seems to be saying, is what you could have bought if you hadn’t wasted all that money on lotto tickets.

So, is the lottery just a tax on stupidity? Do the Ghost of a Dream duo ever feel the urge to scratch away at a card themselves? “We don’t claim to make a judgement on those who do it,” says Adam, “and we don’t claim we never do it ourselves.” “But no,” adds Lauren, “not really.”


First published in World of Interiors issue 334. Reproduced with permission.


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