Initially we agreed to divide the gallery space to different domestic areas: ‘living-room’, ‘kitchen’, ‘storage’, ‘library’, ‘music room’, ‘studio’. However, when artists came to the gallery they each set her work in a specific part of the gallery, pushing to the side the idea of allocating spaces as above. Susan chose a wall on which she made her ‘car’ painting. Later, she chose a space to make her ‘car’ installation, while her ‘Lie detecting chair’ was positioned at another part of the gallery. Laurence has created her artwork, ‘knot’, installing it at a different corner in the gallery. A long sheet of paper was placed on the floor where books were displayed. I joined on the second day, beginning my work by ‘naming’ the different areas while Laurence wrote them on cards and put them in place. For example, the book display became ‘library’.
I brought Zither with a pink powder and a paint brush (instructing visitors to play by spreading powder on the musical instrument, then brushing it off; the first action is silent while the second produces sound, as the brush touches the strings) and placed it on the floor. Next to it, Laurence put a card saying ‘music room’. At a later stage Clarisse added her ‘musical instrument’ (bucket, mop and string) and Susan brought her trombone.
The Music Room Peter participates by playing with/on Zither
Laurence’s tent became a ‘safe place’ and Susan’s ‘lie detecting chair’ installation received the title ‘Exile’. The word ‘exile’ within the context of the domestic sheds light on feelings of alienations that can be found in the place where one should feel safe – home. One may find one’s self alienated from him/herself or from others within the domestic space.
The Exile Safe place
The ‘library’ was moved together with the sofas to another part of the gallery. Since this part is long and narrow, the sofas were placed on their sides, creating a ‘strange’ seats. A reading lamp was added to create a sense of intimacy.Susan’s projection installation with/on cling-film took place in the small windowless part of the gallery which was titled ‘storage’.
The Storage (or Corner)
By giving names to each part, the domestic space came under interrogation. For example, there was a plastic, transparent sheet which Susan brought to the gallery, with the intention to use it as a projection screen. However, Laurence asked if she could use it for a sound installation. The reflective quality of this material evoked an association of water, connecting it with the catastrophic situation of the Syrian and other refugees, which was Laurence’s focus point in this exhibition. The title ‘living-room’ was placed next to the installation. Thus, the term ‘living-room’ was complicated, as another aspect was added to the conventional meaning as a room with windows, curtains, sofas and a TV. Here, the plastic sheet mirrored a standard living-room carpet and at the same time an image of water.
The Living-room 1 – 2
French phenomenologist Gaston Bachelard wrote a topoanalysis of home in his book The Poetics of Space (1994). He writes about corner as ‘a negation of the Universe.’ (There, p. 136), explaining,
‘[I]n one’s corner one does not talk to oneself. When we recall the hours we have spent in our corners, we remember above all silence, the silence of our thoughts.’ (There, pp. 136-137).
We learn that a corner is a contemplative space. Bachelards makes two connections with ‘corner’. One is immobility and second is it being a place that embodies both ‘inside’ and ‘outside’. He writes:
‘… the corner is a haven that ensures us one of the things we prize most highly – immobility. It is the sure place, the place next to my immobility. … Consciousness of being at peace in one’s corner produces a sense of immobility, and this, in turn, radiates immobility.’ (There, p. 137).
Susan Francis, Car, projection installation
What comes to mind is Susan’s ‘car’ projection installation which was projected at the darkest corner of the gallery. This leads me to make an observation which is, that when we talk about a house, a storage space is a familiar concept, whereas when we approach gallery space we tend to not consider its storage, or its ‘back-room’. Her installation inhabited a space of immobility, and indeed, the memory of the car with the corps parked near her home is part of this immobility. It is both fixed, yet dynamic, living in her consciousness.
Bachelard writes: ‘The corner is a sort of half-box, part walls, part door.’ (There, p. 137). In this sense, it evokes both being ‘inside’ and being ‘outside’ at the same time. It brings to mind the intrusion of the political in the private realm with regard to the car incident.
The various installations that took place within this week all exposed tensions, even potential conflicts in context of the domestic: library is made both intimate, yet uncomfortable; music-room (centred around The Mourner installation) became a place full of mismusic and misperformance; instead of food, dust and paint were served at a table, etc’.
The Music room and other rooms The Lunch
Still, the question that needs to be looked at is how does a conflict become domesticated? Does the term ‘domestic’ suggest ‘civilized’? Reading theories about the domestic, as well as looking at other artworks that deal with the domestic will take this research forward.