I've written briefly before on home, but things have changed. That could be partly down to me changing, or it could be down to how life (and love) works. Last March I moved, my previous flat was sold and I found a new home, except it has yet to feel like a home. This could be because I see so much potential but feel unable to do anything (the curse of renting in the UK), or it could be a culmination that I left my old flat because I had to, not because I wanted to.
Rachel Whiteread, an artist it took me a long time to really get, is an artist that works with space, both Ghost (1990) and House (1993) highlight the negative places in which we exist, the old abandoned house on Grove Road a monument to a life lived within the walls. When I think of Whiteread, I think of Embankment (2005), a piece I saw when I was only 16. Back then I never realised the full weight of the work, calling it 'the sugar cubes', now, when I think of moving house I think of Embankment, the collections of detritus that make up my life. If home is a space then Whiteread calls us to see the positive of the negative space.
The permanence of Whiteread's sculptures are in contrast to those of Do Ho Suh, Perfect Home II (2003) an ethereal, fragile space created with fabric. While both artists draw attention to the space we inhabit, Suh does so in a more delicate fashion, prompting feelings of nostalgia and awe. The biographical elements to Suh's work encourages resonance with the viewer, and I can't be alone in imagining how my spaces may translate in fabric. Although the work produced by Suh has a large architectural quality to it, there is a larger dream-like quality that comes to the forefront, are our spaces that we exist in really this fragile? Can our whole worlds be so tender as to float and blur the boundaries of here and there? I'd like to think so.
But what of not having a home? What of not having a permanent (although still temporary) place to live? In 'This Must Be The Place', Dan Fox discusses the complicated idea of home, and poetically remarks that:
"And there's the home that's right here, right now, where you live and work: the daily starting point from which everything else follows".
A man who embodied not having a home as part of a year-long performance, Tehching Hsieh calls to attention the plight of those without homes. Hsieh released a statement outlining that he would create a one-year performance outside (One Year Performance 1981-1982), that he would not take shelter of any kind, nor transport. Although it may seem a mockery of what many must do without choice, it is also an example of art imitating life. If artworks can carry a physicality, historically a way of adorning and demonstrating wealth, does Hsieh present an anti-thesis to this? At the very least Hsieh rejects the cultural norm of having a home, of having a space from which to begin.
Could I, even knowing it was only for a year, take to the streets? I want to say yes, I want to say that I could throw caution to the wind, give away my worldly possessions, live frugally. In truth, I doubt I could, not without a massive push and threat to those I care for. It's not so much that I can't give up things, but that of a roof over my head, that place of safety, that place of belonging and community.
It is this sense of community, embodied by The Heidelberg Project, that often helps secure a sense of home. The use of creativity, the use of art and re-building to create not just houses, not just community, but homes where the individual can set about forging a sense of home, of self and well-being. Although facing demolition, The Heidelberg Project demonstrates what can be done. That through a sense of community home can be found anywhere.
I'm reminded of a book that sits among others in my home, The New Gypsies by Iain McKell. The images contained are that of those that embrace a sense of community over a permanent home. These 'new' gypsies live a nomadic life, with few possessions but a poetic existence of caravans, camp fires, story-telling and close-ness. Although a romantic idea, harsh winters and be socially ostracised make living as a 'gypsy' not as wonderful as first thought.
My own home may take awhile to truly feel as home, my tenancy here is not unstable but not a forever guarantee. To achieve that permanence would mean I have to buy, and that is not financially viable. The German model of renting is one that appeals, but I have to play by British law.
I am wistful for a home, this temperance feels unusual, but the future is one that is unwritten as yet, my life of my own choosing, and I do not know where that may take me, yet.
- Rachel Whiteread: Embankment - c/o tate.org.uk
- Do Ho Suh: Perfect Home II - c/o artnet.com
- Tehching Hsieh - c/o theculturetrip.com
- The Heidelberg Project - c/o detroitnews.com
- Iain McKell - c/o slate.com