Balin House Project and Public Works

Two talks hosted by The Cass, Professor Gill Perry (Art History At Open University) and Torange Khonsari (The Cass - London Met/Public Works). Chaired by Jes Fernie (Curator)

Talk 1: Broken Homes and Haunted Houses: The House in Contemporary Art

Professor Gill Perry

"This talk explores the prevalence of the motif of the house in recent and contemporary art, focussing on the symbolic possibilities of representing ‘broken’ and ‘haunted’ houses. Drawing on material in my book Playing at Home: The House in Contemporary Art, I consider some of the ways in which artists working in installation art and video have embraced the social and aesthetic challenges of representing domestic space and the ‘home’.

I draw briefly on examples of British, European and American art, with a focus on the Heidelberg Project in Detroit, a collaborative evolving project involving artists and the local community. I explore representations of the house as sites of memory, social critique, community involvement, homelessness and the modern culture of the ‘everyday’. Installation art is considered as critical medium for the representation of the house and home, as a ‘living art’ inflected with issues of gender, identity, migration, belonging, social critique and community involvement. Although some previous studies have explored ideas of the surreal or uncanny nature of artistic re-workings of the house, I argue that playful, parodic and participatory practices are central to many representations of the theme. I argue for the recurrence in contemporary art of humorous, playful and subversive (and sometimes destructive) practices that enrich the seemingly banal, ‘everyday’ themes of the house and home."

Gill Perry is Professor of Art History at the Open University and chair of The Open Arts Archive. Her books include: Women Artists and the Parisian Avant-Garde, MUP, 1995; Gender and Art, ed., Yale UP, 1999; Difference and Excess in Contemporary Art, ed., Blackwells, 2003; Themes in Contemporary Art, co-ed with Paul Wood; Spectacular Flirtations: Viewing the Actress in British Art 1768-1820, Yale UP, 2007, The First Actresses, NPG, 2011-12; Playing at Home: The House in Contemporary Art, Reaktion Books, 2013. Her forthcoming book is titled Playing – with Michael Landy, Ridinghouse, 2016.

Talk 2: Public homes: The Home as artistic practice

Torange Khonsari

This talk will explore how in close collaboration with home owners, the home is designed to contribute to the informal cultural offering of the city away from the established voices that celebrate or destroy art. Through informal cultural practices, the home becomes the extension of the public arena of the city, offering itself to strangers as a place of hosting, conflict, debate and unexpected encounters. It becomes a place that values generosity, operates on an economy of gift exchange, celebrates and experiments with forms of cultural practice that the establishment is too risk averse to approach. The design of the Home, its spatial configurations, its domestic utilities are entwined between the world of the domestic home and the public gallery. What can a home as artistic practice offer the city?

Torange Khonsari obtained her professional Diploma at the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London - July 1998. In 2004 she co-founded the art and architecture practice public works, an interdisciplinary practice working in the threshold of participatory and performative art, architecture and related fields of anthropology, always engaged with notions of civic in the city. Their projects are socially and politically motivated and directly impacts public space, working with local organisations, communities, government bodies and stakeholders.

As a practice it is a vehicle and an umbrella that both hosts and tests the academic research undertaken within university teaching. Torange is currently a director of public works, and teaches architecture at London Metropolitan University (The Cass). The direct two-way communication between academia and practice has enabled and enriched an exploratory environment within which public works is now operating. Published work include "public works enjoying the in between" in publication planning the unplanned, "contemporary initiative in participatory art and architecture practice", open house international publication. 

This talks is the first of the three exploring the home. It is part of a larger grants for the arts application and project described below:

"My home is your home" completed in 2014 follows from "Whitechapel gift shop" project in 2010 and is the second in the public home series by public works. Public homes are privately commissioned architectural projects that work collaboratively with clients to negotiate the privacy of the home and levels of publicness it can offer to the city. It looks at a home as a public asset and the home owner as a public agent. In both projects, the homes have been opened up as informal cultural places, for artist residency, site specific performances, art commissions, talks and debates and symbolic demolitions.

Unlike the "Whitechapel gift shop" which was an old saw mill, "My home is your home" is a flat in an ex-local authority flat in Borough – London. In the 1980s due to an accident in one of the laundry rooms where a small boy died, Southwark council closed and locked all the laundry rooms. Artist Eduardo Padhill moved to an adjacent flat, negotiated access and set up an exhibition in the laundry room, opening it up to the public once again. This started The Balin House Projects in 2006. 

The laundry room had its limitation due to its very small dimensions and lack of a link to the artist’s house. In 2012 Padilha bought the laundry room to expand both his home and this art space. Post expansion Balin House Projects has become an artist space where Padilha hosts discussions and debates over Sunday lunch. Last month the project was awarded a grants for the arts to explore the potentials, limitations and conflicts of an art/home. Collaboratively with public works, Balin House Projects will critically look at the home as an artistic practice through its architecture, an artist commission, series of talks and workshops.  

For more information visit the Balin House Project website.

Art and the Home Artist Do Ho Suh

News details

Date Tuesday, 6 October at 6:30pm
Location The Cass, Central House, Room CE1-16
59-63 Whitechapel High St, London E1 7PF

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