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Just what is it that makes today's homes so different, so appealing?

  1. Gender
  2. Design
  3. Consumption
  4. Taste
  5. Function
  6. Some may predated living in the house, for example inherited furniture
  7. Objects come to stand for people and relationships, they take on a fetish quality thereby
  8. Objects and people have values that are interchangeable, and they possess a considerable degree of interpenetration

Notes de l'éditeur

  1. Home – The place of one's dwelling and nurturing, a definition dated back to 1460 by the Oxford English Dictionarydefines us by the way we think and perceive the world we live in.
  2. This lecture aims to examine the relationship between things, space and everyday practices in the home. We will address for example:Issues around classGenderDesignConsumptionTasteFunctionStatus
  3. Explore the domestic interior and outline various historical and disciplinary conceptions of the ‘home’. Provide a historical overview of the ways in which designers, architects and visual cultures have conceived the home over the course of the 20th and 21st centuries. We will consider how the changing notions of domesticity and gender have informed this. 
  4. We will also analyse the ways in which disciplines like social anthropology and material cultures enhance our understanding of the social, cultural and historically specific meanings and practices associated with domestic spaces. Specifically, we will examine the themes of:
  5. Since the early 18th century ideas about ‘taste’ have structured the way we think about the material world and our engagement with it; from the clothes we wear to the way we decorate our homes to the food we eat and the leisure activities we choose to pursue.Taste is a form of aesthetic judgement that is rooted in rules or standards and this has very much shaped the promotion of design in the 20th and 21st centuries.Taste is a socially constructed system for classifying things and people into categories of unequal value.The theorist Pierre Bourdieu analysed taste and showed that all tastes fit within a hierarchical framework that he related to class.
  6. In considering ‘Taste’Ornament and Crime is an essay written in 1908 by the influential and self-consciously "modern" Austrian architect Adolf LoosThe essay was written when Art Nouveauwas about to show a new way of modern art. The essay is important in articulating some moralizing views, inherited from the Arts and Crafts movement, which would be fundamental to the Bauhaus design studio and would help define the ideology of Modernism in architecture.In Loos'sessay,he describes a "passion for smooth and precious surfaces” and he explains his philosophy about ornamentation describing how it can have the effect of causing objects to go out of style and thus become obsolete. It struck him that it was a crime to waste the effort needed to add ornamentation, when the ornamentation would cause the object to soon go out of style.Loos introduced a sense of the "immorality" of ornament, describing it as "degenerate", its suppression as necessary for regulating modern society.
  7. We will also consider ideas about public and private as they relate to the home.
  8. For example, recall the uproar when Tracy Emi displayed her unmade bed in a public space. I would argue that as much as the contestation of ‘is it art’ that was levied at it, the work also represented an uncomfortable violation of the private sanctity of the bedroom.Considered in these terms this work explicitly concerns the idea of widening the scope of the common inside/outside, private/public binary oppositions.
  9. Increasing paranoid fixations with cleanliness being pumped into our house via the apocalyptic advertising campaigns for products that claim to be weapons in an increasingly dangerous and potentially fatal battle with our own homes.
  10. I also want to consider the significance of the use and display of objects within the home.
  11. We will ask what role does gender play in the material and spacial practices in the home?And I’d like you to consider whether you think a consideration of gender is still appropriate to the analysis of contemporary homes?
  12. We can also consider an event-driven approach to home: for example home is having dinner together.
  13. How do homes happen? Are they planned, as we have intuitively tended to believe, or is the process a more messy one?When you move to a new house it doesn’t immediately feel like home, perhaps it feels more like a hotel suite, and this is despite the fact that it offers you shelter and perhaps even luxuries and amenities that you did not enjoy before. Does this lack of home feeling stem from the fact that everything around you has been planned and designed to the last detail? Wouldn't you have to live for a while in this place, interacting with its walls and table surfaces by placing a souvenir where, a momento there, before something like a sense of home began to emerge?
  14. Would a place feel like home if every expressive or functional detail had been exhaustively planned by yourself? No doubt all of us think about the decoration of our home environment, but do we always have an explicit reason why certain things are placed where they are? Don't we often place them in a given location because it feels like that is where they belong, as if our souvenirs and sentimental possessions arranged themselves through us? Answering these questions in the case of human beings is rather hard because of the extreme variability of human culture and, even within a given culture, the great diversity of human personalities.
  15. The meaning of objects shift and change according to the various physical, temporal, social and cultural contexts in which they are used and displayed. This is relevant to the home and also to the museum as we will see later this afternoon when we visit the…‘In the context of a private home, the simple act of hanging a painting requires important decisions: the choice of room, the juxtaposition of other objects, lighting, wall colour, and wall texture. Even the floor is a factor: hard, shiny surfaces reflects light, sound and colour quite differently from soft, sound and light absorbing materials…’
  16. The physical placement, or framing of an object can change the objects meaning.Historical connotations, economic value, symbolic meaning and valueIn the image of Jeff Koon’s work we are invited to contemplate the hoovers as objects divorced from their function and contextualised in another realm. This idea will resurface later when we visit the museum.
  17. Streamlining: The Aesthetics of WasteEllen Lupton and J Abbot Miller“Designers and writers Ellen Lupton and J Abbott Miller argue that the streamlined style of modernism emanated from the domestic landscape of the bathroom and kitchen, particularly the hygienic use of non-porous materials. They discuss the ramifications of streamlined design as a reflection of mass production and consumption overlaid with the intentions of suppressing or denying evidence of bodily waste.”
  18. Streamlining A form of styling that emerged in the 1930s, through the work of American designers such as Raymond Loewy. It was used to make objects such as vehicles, household appliances and electrical equipment appear unified and modern and to increase their consumer appeal. Streamlined objects are often characterized by an aerodynamic appearance, with blunt, rounded and smoothly finished forms, and chrome highlight decoration. A significant period in design is between 1890 and 1940 when Western society’s culture of consumption took its modern form: products were mass produced and mass distributed, designed to be purchased and rapidly replaced by a vast buying public.
  19. The same period saw the rise of the modern bathroom and kitchen as newly equipped spaces for administering bodily care. The bathroom became a laboratory for the management of biological waste, from urine to feces to hair, perspiration, dead skin, bad breath, finger nails, and other bodily excretions.
  20. The contested terrain of the kitchen.Is it a gendered space?Is it a ritual space?What kinds of activities take place here and what might they say about how we inhabit and imbue meaning to spaces?By examining the kitchen as a domestic sphere it can tell us a great deal about how certain socio-cultural groups understand and order their worlds
  21. Product advertising and consumption and gender
  22. Political ideologies:Homes are spaces where political ideologies are played out in the context of everyday practices such as consumption, appropriation and societal organisation.
  23. More traditional ideas of the home:Men’s space: head of the house, ceremonial and social quarters, auspicious, life, safetyWomen’s space: labour, waste, inauspicious, death, dangerHow has the home been affected by the fact that more and more women now go to work and increasingly more men spend time engaged in domestic tasks? How do more traditional family-centred homes compare with those belonging to diverse family forms and people living alone?
  24. Pollution, taboo and ritual cleanliness
  25. Ideas about ‘cleanliness’ and taboo are very different across societiesWhat is clean?What is dirty?What is taboo?
  26. What are kitchens?Places where food is prepared; places where food is consumed.Simple and straightforward. Right? Wrong.Food transformed from ‘raw’ (nature) to cooked (culture) – a gendered division of labour
  27. Kitchens are not only sites for preparing food but also for directing household consumption at large, the kitchen is the chief entryway for purchased goods, and the main exit point for vegetable parings, empty packages, outmoded appliances and other discarded products. To consume is to ingest and expel, to take in and lay waste.Production of waste (dangerous, pollutive)The modernisation of the kitchen followed that of the bathroom, whose aesthetic encouraged obsessive cleanliness. The modern kitchen emulated the unforgiving sparkle of the bathroom.The changes in kitchen design were preceded by the rise of food packaging, a phenomenon that accelerated in the 1880s. The food package encloses the product in a smooth, continuous skin, the package resists dirt, air, moisture, sealing off the product within.
  28. ‘…dirt is essentially disorder. There is no such thing as absolute dirt: it exists in the eye of the beholder. If we shun dirt, it is not because of craven fear, still less dread of holy terror. Nor do our ideas about disease account for the range of our behaviour in cleaning or avoiding dirt. Dirt offends against order. Eliminating it is not a negative movement, but a positive effort to organize the environment.’
  29. This work by Mona Hatoum comprises several conventional metal kitchen appliances connected by electric wires to light bulbs that blink on and off.It represents the unexpected dangers that can lurk in more familiar places.
  30. In a political climate where the stress is on the positive benefits of home ownership, people who cannot afford to own their home feel stigmatised and accept an ideology which tells them that this is a poor substitute for ownership. In some circumstance this feeling can be overcome. Most often this occurs whenthe relationship between occupants develops positively through the act of appropriating the home: often through its physical transformation as home refurbishment and redecoration….however there is a constant reminded that power lies elsewhere. For example in rented corporation houses tennants often contravene the limits of what they can do to the property, this involves replacing permanent fixtures such as fireplaces with models of their own choice.
  31. Considernew perspectives on the material culture of the home including:mobility, the agency of homes and possessions, and privacy in the domestic sphere.In 1992 there was a series of programmes called Signs of the Times shown on BBC television. These were concerned with peoples’ relationship to the material culture of their homes. In these programmes the camera dwells lovingly and patiently on particular objects in the home and those who dwell with them while we listen to the accounts of how people established their relationships with the material culture of the home and with each other. Particular programmes focused on topics such as how couples, or parents and children, reconciled or failed to reconcile their preferences.
  32. One of these programmes was devoted entirely to the way in which occupants determine their relationship to the temporality of the house.One couple shown owned a stately home but felt the need at times to express the sense that it is was a living home and that they were not just curators of a museum. They therefore introduced some contemporary elements.Another couple only wanted genuine antiques and treasured the sense that `someone has loved it, treasured it, polished it from old. Similarly another couple wanted an old house but couldn’t afford it, so they furnished the house they actually purchased with antique looking objects to make it more similar to the house they would have bought if they had had the money.By contrast an elderly person failed to understand any of this since for her identification could only come from the longevity of the actual association an individual person had with individual objects to create `things that matter’ `things that have lives in themselves’ so that merely possession of the old through purchasing antiques was for her inauthentic.
  33. Central to the program become the conflict between those occupants who would buy only reproductions and those who purchase actual antiques. For the former true antiques were seen as `coffins’ of furniture, and the idea that people had died in that particular bed which is why the antique buyers wanted that bed made it for them something to be avoided at all costs. For the buyer of antiques, the purchase of reproduction furniture is viewed is fundamentally dishonest. Those people are called `tremendous cheats’ and a betrayal of the proper search for authenticity. By contrast, for people who buy reproduction furniture it is the purchasers of antiques who are dishonest since it is reproduction furniture that is being clear about the necessary relationship of taste to the present. What emerges from this range of views and practices is that in coming to terms with the agency expressed in the temporality of the home and the temporality of its associated material culture, one is also developing a larger cosmology of authenticity, truth, negotiation and identity that in many cases may have consequences for ones view of the world in a much wider political and moral sphere. Collecting and matching can become quite obsessive such that once again the individual is not so much choosing, but become increasing possessed by what they see as the fundamental morality involved in establishing their relationship to the history of material culture.PossessionsDaniel Miller‘….the material culture of the home has consequences…quite often we are not the agents that create the material environment that becomes the medium of representation. Furthermore there is the point that it is an intrinsic quality of materiality that makes objects transcend any such relationship to persons.’
  34. gender roles: the relationship between the practice of Do-it-Yourself technology, that providing a male role in the house, contrasts with females who take exclusive responsibility for aesthetic decisions.
  35. Social relations can de developed through the transformation of the home Social relations can constrain this transformation
  36. Baudrillard discussed consumer goods in terms of meaning, in observing how objects are arranged, used and cared for it is also possible to account for social mobility and changes of meaning over time. This is clearly relevant to homes and the goods we furnish them with.He said“A given class is not lastingly assigned to a given category of objects (or to a given style of clothing): on the contrary, all classes are assigned to change, all assume the necessity of fashion as a value, just as they participate (more or less) in the universal imperative of social mobility. In other words, since objects play the role of exhibition of social status, and since this status has become potentially mobile, the objects will always simultaneously give evidence not only of an acquired situation (this they have always done), but also of the potential mobility of this social status as such objects are registered in the distinctive cycle of fashion.”
  37. This is an extreme example of a corporation house that stands out as a clear expression of aesthetic transformation. The outside tells the passer by that this is a conspicuous household that has been engaged in a continual act of appropriation from the state.
  38. Aesthetic as expressed in a room and home is a combination of many factors. We create our own aesthetic order andnew objects have to be integrated into the order created by those already established. Some have a patina of affinity because of how long we have had them, or who we obtained them from or where they came from.As McCracken (1988: 118-129) argued in his discussion of the `Diderot Effect' it is often the consequences of one choice of object for others that renders that choice most significant, for example, the first object in a new style that suddenly makes all the objects around it look old-fashioned. The key aesthetic unit is not often a single object any more than it is a single person. Mostly it is the `wardrobe' or the `room' within which are found a whole configuration of objects that together constitute a relationship to taste as a social phenomenon.
  39. Objects within our homes are part of our history of relationships, for example presentsSome may predated living in the house, for example inherited furnitureObjects come to stand for people and relationships, they take on a fetish quality therebyObjects and people have values that are interchangeable, and they possess a considerable degree of interpenetrationHomes evolve as a mirror of the social relationships we aspired to
  40. ‘Quite often couples originally form on the basis of the attraction between highly gendered individuals. A macho man being attracted to an conspicuously feminine woman and vice-versa. When they become a couple living together the opposition which was once a source of mutual attraction may or may not be reconciled in their development of their joint home. Working class men constantly refer to their pictures of cars, football and nudes, while their stripped down fires and furnishing is justified as a natural and masculine functionalism. Within the middle class male aesthetics may be legitimated by modernist minimalism that eschews the signs of life represented by, for example, the children. Such men see the introduction of an aesthetic where sofas are covered in cushions, blinds replaced by curtains, and surfaces covered by teddy bears and family pictures as intrusive feminising.’Daniel Miller, Possessions
  41. ‘Women who identify themselves as conspicuously feminine may regard the same process as civilizing maturity. They may see their role as transcending the individualism of each. This may be accepted or they may find a negotiated compromise. So in one case a woman `gets’ the bedroom as her `nest’ where `she wants an important bed (with a teddy bear in the middle) that would symbolize the act of marriage’ - as long as the man can control the living room.’
  42. Louise Bourgeois ‘FemmeMaison’This is from a series of works where Bourgeois drew and sculpted female figures whose bodies consist partly of a house, in reference to the social status of women and their allocation to domestic territory.
  43. The architecture of the estates was itself a sign of the alienation of the built environment from the people who lived in them. Mostly they were created according to the canons of modernism with a strong emphasis on functionalism and lack of ornament. When these estates failed as social environments as happened with many of the 1960's tower blocks, this was seen as a failure of left-wing principles of collectivist housing. The irony was that the estates never reflected the people that had to live in them. Quite the contrary, they were designed and built by people who lived in quite different environments. Most of those who were forced to live within them had an entirely different aesthetic that positively valued ornament.
  44. RachelWhitread casts the invisible void enclosed within the structure and in doing so emphasises the small indentations, the scrapes, worn areas…she offers a record of human experience.Part of the undeniable power of House is the question that it raises:Is a house merely an architectural structure or does it embody the life lived out within its walls?Homes resonate with a sense of history and the life.They retain an archeological presence.They possess the capacity of mute physical material with evidence of life.
  45. Whitread excavates memories like an archeologist. This work ‘Ghost’ is a plaster cast of the interior of an ordinary room. Details of the gas fire, door and window impressions and traces of wallpaper and flakes of colour from the paintwork hold the memory of the place.With this work she symbolically entombed the social space in which lives were once lived out.
  46. Material Culture is concerned with the relationship between artefacts and social relations aims to systematically explore the linkage between the construction of social identities and the production and use of culture.The properties of material culture that make them far more than merely that which the people who employ them intend them to signify. The very durability and physicality of things make them liable to represent attributes which were not those that an individual desired them to convey, for example, that they are actually torn rather than whole, or not quite the same as the object they were supposed to replace.
  47. Material World- ConsumerismWith rising personal wealth, consumption increasingly involves an appropriation of goods that goes far beyond the satisfaction of “needs” which might reasonably be regarded as basic (i.e. food, clothes, and shelter). In parts of the world where a large percentage of the population is well off, consumers are motivated by sometimes abstract “needs,” such as to communicate particular values or ideals, or to orient themselves socio-economically through their belongings.
  48. Photojournalist Peter Menzel offers a lucid illustration of the global economic disparity of real vs. abstract needs in photographs of the homes and possessions of families around the globe, each representing the median income of their country.He spends a week with each family before making a final portrait of the family members in front of their home surrounded by its contents. From South Africa to Mongolia to Japan to Iceland, the subjects place all of their household belongings in front of their dwelling for unique family portraits that, viewed in relation to each other, emphasize the cultural and economic underpinnings of material wealth.
  50. “We all have an understanding of what our own lives are like, but even as the countries of the world become more interconnected, we know very little about the lives of other people in other societies. What better way to begin to understand than to show average family life around the world and to base that examination around a unique photograph of a family with all its possessions outside its dwelling?” Peter Menzel
  51. Material World is a lesson in economics and geography, reminding us of the world's inequities, but also of humanity's common threads.
  52. MemoryRed Room (Child) is created by the obsessively enigmatic logic of its artefacts.Bourgeois has created a place for personal reminiscence.
  53. A few things to pondeThe concept of 'home' seems hardly adequate in a time when everybody is on the run and the ultimate destination is cyberspace.Is home where my heart is or where my computer is? While we keep our ideas in a laptop that seems to be home for some people, our ideas of home are very emotional and rooted in memories. Home is ultimately where the memory is – a place to go back to; a anchor place that puts the conceptual system into perspective. Not by coincidence is the concept home used widely in complex computer systems.Is the computer becoming more and more the defining environment in society, replacing neighbour-communication with long-distance communication via electronic devices?Is the old image we have of Home Sweet Homeno longer valid as our family and friends are around the world and we relate to them via electronic paths? Is the idea of home no longer confined to the house? For example we create our moving house in the car and the communication industry provides the necessary contraptions.If we consider that home is a memory concept inside ourselves and laptop computers as well as family houses are only containers for our concepts.Could we say that:Home today is far more a feeling and a state of mind than a locationHome is in our memories, home is in our emotions - home is the underlying reward for our journey
  54. That concludes my lecture on the domestic sphere, its artifacts, spaces and relations.