A 1.136m2 piece of land in Austria forms the centre of my ongoing project. I started off with a two weeks residency on the land where I spent time there documenting on and around the piece of land and meeting the local community. Following I set up a planning space in the gallery of S1 Artspace planning a house for the piece of land as a catalyst for people telling me stories about their house and home experiences. An ongoing stream of project is emerging from this investigation into what ‘home’ means to people and my interest in the fine line between art and life.
We’ve been in our selected home country Austria exactly four month now. A routine is creeping in, my urge to settle everybody in is slowing down, bureaucracy is getting less, my watching eye on the family members to see how they are doing is getting distracted, my inner interest is escaping to myself and the question what I might do here, I’m starting to look around to see what my needs and wants can connect to …
It is time …
I’m still giving out little white soap houses to people I meet, that live in our block of flats and people a know.
Our house plans a already pretty detailed. We know how big the spaces will be and how they will be arranged, what materials we will use, where the walls will be, what the kitchen will look like, where the lights will be, what colours we will have everywhere, where the sockets and cables need to be, where all the drainage will be and wha systems, etc. I’m thinking about all the details constantly, and it takes up my mind space. There are a lot of decisions to make.
How does all that fit into my work?
The house is my current project. I need lots of people to work with me on that such as Nick and the architect with a technical person, building manager, electrician, plumber, metal workers, brick layers, a variety of companies that provide windows, doors, cladding, kitchen, etc. It is a collaboration.
It is an immensely intense process and I need to find a way to communicate my thought process, that different perspective I have. Showing a different viewpoint – it’s not just building a house but so much more. It provides a catalyst to conversations that lead to questions. There will be conversations, situations as well as objects, film footage, text and sound that will grow out of this.
Back from our ten days visit to Austria. We had our second and third meeting with the architect and I’m translating each meeting into a drawing. I ‘m reading the notes I made over and over again and transport myself back into each meeting. What is the essence? It slowly emerges in drawings that might take weeks.
Have started to de-personalise the first room, our bedroom. It is in stage three after the ‘current stage’ and ‘de-cluttered stage’. In the process of this I also started the list of objects that come with us from that room. Very labour intense and can’t believe how many things I need to list from a room I thought was most scarcely filled with stuff. Yes, I go through every last thing.
Recording of ‘home thoughts’ must be arranged as I need native English speakers for that and it will be challenging to find enough once we have moved.
And of course there is the goodbye event that I’m planning to do at Bloc Studios outside with a long table, food and drink for my artist community. There will be a more general one near home.
During our time in Austria we
met three banks and decided on one and opened a bank account. We
found a flat after looking at three. In the end we could have had all of them, the first was privat very spacious and modern but at the top of our budget, the second one in a high rise complex of flats that didn’t feel right to me and was not much cheaper than the first one and the last one was the cheapest one with the same size and in a smaller house containing six flats. Being in a mixed area with privat modern and older houses and flats in a quiet street. We were hoping for the last one and got it the day before we returned to England. We
met our architect twice and he’s now properly working on our project after we signed the first part of the contract and got invoices. Before we signed we checked with a friend of mine if he thinks the prices are reasonable and which ones could be negotiable. We also
looked at schools and boys made a decision and got enrolling forms. We also
got two older cars lined up that were cheaply offered from Nick’s work colleagues.
The people who are interested in buying our house made progress as well as they need to sell their house.
It was a very busy ten days but I enjoyed them and it has been hard to return and go back to normal. We are looking at materials and images of concrete interiors, cladding, stairs etc. every night and sending them to our architect.
After working at home taking photographs and separating stuff into piles for a few weeks I lost perspective, questioning what it is I’m actually doing. Am I just getting ready to move to a different country or am I working on an art project? Going through tutorial notes from a conversation I had with Post Graduate Research Tutor Becky Shaw from when I was on my MA, I was reminded that I’m not alone and that I’m actually exploring the issue/the fine line between life-art. This time concerning my own house, I’m turning a place into a space and not the other way round.
The fact that the process is so personal can create an interesting tension as what I’m doing is real, I am really de-homing our current house and we are really building a home on a piece of land in Austria. I don’t need to worry if this is art or not as I am exploring the issue art-life. And anyway, it is art because it is thought of it as art.
The process turns into the product, in fact the process is the product. I’m having a residency in my own life where I’m trying to communicate a thought process; I’m looking at it from a different perspective, asking different questions, framing a problem differently.
I do have to know where the enquiry sits – but I don’t have to know my position on it. My position is to ask questions about it and that’s why it is art and not politics. I feel I’m slowly moving back on track. Re-reading ‘Living as Form’ edited by Nato Thompson reminds me where I roughly sit with my work although the projects in there a much more political. Other names I remember being mentioned to me and I’ve read some time ago are Allan Kaprow, Mary Kelly, Grand Kestner, Ben Highmore, Danny Miller and more.
Nick is in Japan at the moment but his future Austrian boss proposed a salary offer that looks ok for us and that means ALL GO NOW. So I’ve contacted our architect Hans to arrange a meeting for when we are over there at Easter. This weekend when Nick has returned we’ll tell the boys although they are assuming our move is already planned anyway. We’ll also invite the couple that is interested in buying our house and update them as they want to have a survey done. Will tell my mum too of course. So my de-homing process gets a ‘neuen Schwung’. Need to pause from time to time to slow myself down and to not lose sight of what I’m doing.
It turns out that documenting the de-homing process of my own house is more interesting than showing images of de-homed houses I have no relationship with. So I’ve stopped viewing houses that are for sale. I’ve taken images of each room in our house in the original state, then I’ve started decluttering und took images of so far one room de-cluttered. Next stage is de-personalising and then de-homing. Each state will be photographed. Before de-homing each room I’ll make a list for each room with the objects that come with us to Austria as well as a book of abstract drawings done in that room.
It was inspiring to view empty houses and look for traces of home. The images I took looked like badly taken state agent images. When I showed them to a group of people they agreed that working with my own house would be much more interesting.
We have now one job sorted in Linz so the moving plans a becoming more real. At Easter we are going over for ten days to talk banks and our architect. We also want to cut the grass and plant some trees on our land. We’ve now got somebody interested in our house and it’s not even on the market yet. Hopefully it works out!
I’m a client for the first year architecture student of Sheffield University and gave a little talk about my work and the way I and my family live in our current house. Will be interesting to see what they come up with.
Tomorrow I’m off to the Baltic to get some more inspiration in terms of art/architecture, space/place.
After a series of conversations with the architect and the council I decided to translate those exchanges into drawings to internalise them, digest them and make sense of them. We are talking about boundaries, moving them or not, sizes, distances, lines, shapes and of course regulations and how to follow them or get around them.
I have started drawings on rectangular sizes lining paper about 50cm long and 20cm wide with a combination of more or less abstract pencil and charcoal drawings and possibly bits of collaged images will translate the dialogues with the architect and the council. I’ve not been drawing for a long time and feel excited like a child about doing this.
Also, I’ve finally got recording equipment to work on recording voices reading the collected thoughts on ‘what home means to people’. I’m planning on using the free software ‘audacity’ for the editing process. I got good advice from a friend about what to use and how to work with it. Very valuable!!!
Another dimension of my ‘home’ project is a photography piece. I’m going round viewings houses that are in between not being a home anymore and becoming one again. I’ll photograph them in that stage and make a series of images in a not yet known size. I want them to be already empty waiting to be inhabited again.
Not much progress on our own house; still packed with stuff and in need of decorating.