Home and Art

by Laura Cuch

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On Friday 1st May I gave a presentation at the workshop Home and Art: Creating and Researching Home at the Geffrye Museum, organized by the Centre for Studies of Home at Queen Mary University.
My presentation ‘The Best Place in The World’: A Biography of home was a performance that consisted of a carousel slide projection of my photographic project ‘The Best Place in The World’ alongside a reading combining personal biographical narratives with academic interpretations on notions of home.

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Although I completed this photographic series in 2011 and re-edited it into a slideshow in 2013, presenting at the conference at the Geffrye Museum offered me the opportunity to revisit and re-interpret the work in the light of the theories about home that I have been exploring since I started my PhD in January. Here, some of the theoretical ideas that the paper touches on are: the significance of the study of material culture for the study of home (Daniel Miller); the notion of a biography of home, consisting of telling the story of a ‘house-as-home’ through the lives of past and present inhabitants and their possessions (Alison Blunt and Robyn Dowling); the materiality and agency of the non-human within the home (Russell Hitchings); the relationship between growing up and the changing perception of one’s home; the relationship between developing one’s home and one’s marriage (Chang-Kwo Tan and Daniel Miller); the role of gendered relations of power in shaping identities and experiences/imaginaries of home (Alison Blunt and Robyn Dowling) and; how photography may be used to transform one’s relationship with home.

This photographic project, which has grown and transformed organically over the years (it started in 2005), has at its core involved a process of distancing myself visually, spatially and temporally, in order to look back to my upbringing and to make sense of it. The series is composed of 39 pictures of the place where I grew up and can be thought of as a biography of this apartment (www.lauracuch.com).

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It was a real pleasure to present at the conference where I received very positive feedback and I learned so much from the other speakers about the relationship between art and home. I was particularly struck by the first keynote Gill Perry, who gave a really interesting paper, discussing how visual artists can make a special contribution to critical debates about the nature of ‘home’ and explored this through three short cases of contemporary art practice. I look forward to reading her book Playing at home: the house in contemporary art. The three panels that followed focused on: artwork that was centered around material culture ‘Inside Home’; artwork focusing on experiences of ‘Domestic Marginality’; and arts practices exploring ways of ‘Performing Home’. The last two panels were wrapped by the second keynote, artist Sutapa Biswas, and the closing remarks by Harriet Hawkins, from Royal Holloway University. Sutapa Biswas discussed how her arts practice has explored the concept of home in relation to questions of subjectivity, race and gender, while Harriet Hawkins reflected on work by Doris Salcedo as a starting point for an overview of the different themes that threaded the conference, reflecting on home as a contradictory site of encounter.

This event has been really inspiring and has provided a fantastic platform of networks and references that I will surely revisit in the next three years. As part of the Making Suburban Faith Project, my practice-based PHD in the Geography department at UCL will use photography to explore the domestic material cultures of different faith communities in the suburbs of West London. Here, the challenge will be to turn the lens towards other people’s homes and material culture. I am really excited to explore in which ways art may open up and question the relationship between faith practices and the domestic space and its materiality.

See the conference program here
For more information visit the event page:
http://www.geffrye-museum.org.uk/whatson/events/academic/

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