Open House (1992 – 1993)
From 1991-1994, interested in the idea of home as a construction of personal, private identity, I built installations of domestic rooms and installed them at different public sites where I documented them in photographs. Asserting the individual within the larger context of the public realm, the domestic rooms often evoke the vulnerability of the private self amidst the pressures and stresses of life in our society. Of particular interest to my practice were the examination of gendered public and private spaces, and the analysis of societal valuation/devaluation of those spaces. I was also interested in revising the traditional art historical hierarchy of subject matter that denigrated the domestic and the everyday. This early work is also informed by the potential of staged photography to both exploit and undermine the photograph’s traditional claim to authenticity.
The Open – House series consists of eleven colour photographs and six installation rooms. The constructed living rooms and bedrooms were photographed in public spaces such as a parking lot, a public library, and public galleries. The installation rooms were roughly constructed and loosely painted, often consisting of some ‘real’ pieces of furniture and carpet which were painted over, and also of some pieces of furniture and decor that were constructed like stage properties from styrofoam, fabric and other materials. When one of the installation rooms was exhibited together with the photographs of itself or other installations at different sites, the exhibition space became the arena for the interplay of several layers of oppositions: the public realm versus the domestic realm, art versus reality, three-dimensional installation versus two-dimensional photography.
Bedroom 2 was situated in the main access route of the gallery, with a doorway within the installation leading into the rest of the gallery space where the Open-House photographs were exhibited. By forcing the viewer to enter and walk through it, the installation made each visitor to the gallery an intruder in the bedroom.
Situated within a municipal complex housing a public library, theatre and administrative offices, the Living Room 3 gallery has two glass walls like storefront windows, allowing viewers to look inside while standing in the atrium and lobby areas of the building. The installation faced outwards to the public. Eight of the Open-House photographs were presented behind it on the gallery walls, while three photographs were hung on the painted walls of the installation itself, creating a multi-layered nest of public and domestic spaces.