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People, Places and Possessions


Antony Buxton, Linda Hulin and Jane Anderson

Central to human life and experience, habitation forms a context for enquiry within many disciplines. This collection brings together perspectives on human habitation in the fields of anthropology, archaeology, social history, material culture, literature, art and design, and architecture. Significant shared themes are the physical and social structuring of space, practice and agency, consumption and gender, and permanence and impermanence. Topics range from archaeological artefacts to architectural concepts, from Romano-British consumption to the 1950s Playboy apartment, from historical elite habitation to present-day homelessness, from dwelling «on the move» to the crisis of household dissolution, and from interior design to installation art. Not only is this volume a rich resource of varied aspects and contexts of habitation, it also provides compelling examples of the potential for interdisciplinary conversations around significant shared themes.

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11. Don’t Try This at Home: Artists’ Viewing Inhabitation (Stephen Walker)


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11 Don’t Try This at Home: Artists’ Viewing Inhabitation


This essay will discuss three art projects: House, by Rachel Whiteread [1993], Alteration to a Suburban House, by Dan Graham [1978] and Splitting, by Gordon Matta-Clark [1974]. All are concerned with mass housing typologies rather than bespoke housing. In all three, connection to any real lives is erased and frustrated in various ways, forcibly distancing our consideration from the particulars of previous inhabitants of these places, inviting us instead to project our own sense of home onto these anonymised places. The artists deploy complex dynamics of looking and not looking, seeing and not seeing, the visible, the invisible and the hidden, in order to draw attention to everyday material and spatial frameworks that persist in mass housing. I will dwell on how these projects combine examinations of the invisible relations of power exercised across domestic space with the familiar, visible image of home.

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