10 Artists Exploring the Theme of 'Home'
Image above: Nimbus, Green Room 2013 by Berndnaut Smilde
Borders that demarcate our everyday space are fuzzier than ever. We’re in a global lockdown, experiencing a complete disruption of normalcy; the line between work and leisure is completely blurred. Our familiar peace is disrupted by elements of chaos – things are no longer what they seem. Shapes denoting bathrooms, kitchens, and living rooms burst with uncertainty. In these fluid times, art can help us maintain a level of sanity.
Let’s take a look at some evocative artworks that echo distinct visual languages and enhance the dialogue about a place called ‘home’.
Maurizio Cattelan, Bidibidobidiboo, 1996
Cattelan’s work often marries humour with the macabre. His taxidermied animal installations feature creatures configured in absurdist narratives, like the post-suicide squirrel in Bidibidobidiboo (1996). The dead squirrel raises all sorts of discussions – is it a meditation on social mobility? The title of the work refers to the spell that transforms Cinderella. Yet no one was willing to transform this squirrel living in dismal surroundings with little hope of escape. It was, in every sense of the word, stuffed. Or is this piece more personal than that? The kitchen is modeled after the one that Cattelan grew up with. His mother accidentally left a hot iron on the yellow Formica table. To save it, his father sawed off the burned end, leaving the family to always eat their meals on an absurdly shrunken table.
Berndnaut Smilde, Nimbus, Green Room, 2013
Dutch artist Berndnaut Smilde is best known for creating hyper-realistic miniature clouds that are there for a few seconds – long enough to be photographed – before falling apart again. The clouds are created by a process of misting the area with water vapour before pumping smoke from a machine. The water particles stick to the smoke to form the fleeting installations. Smilde is interested in the temporary aspect of the work – the work eventually only exists as a photograph. The photo is a sort of documentation of something that happened at a specific location but is now no longer there.
Marijke van Warmerdam, Pannenkoek (Pancake), 1995
Marijke van Warmerdam is renowned for her short films, photographs, and sculptures, forming an extraordinarily consistent body of work. She portrays minute moments of life, manipulating them with simple techniques such as repetition, mirroring, or shifts in focus. Marijke gained recognition for her short looping films of everyday events; decontextualizing changes their meaning. The work isn’t merely about endlessly repeating acts, however, but rather about becoming hypnotized and returning to the essence of the everyday. It’s about the image that can subsequently create new and unfamiliar images in the viewer’s mind. Warmerdam says that, for her, “repetition is mainly about the sense of beginning — that when things begin, anything is still possible. To me, that’s its essence. There’s something very optimistic about that.”
Gregor Schneider, Totes Haus u r, 2001
Since the early 1990s, German artist Gregor Schneider conceived the rooms as dimensional sculptures that one can walkthrough. In 1985, Schneider was working on the house on Unterheydener Straße in Mönchengladbach-Rheydt. He created replicas of existing rooms by building complete rooms inside other rooms, each consisting of walls, ceilings, and floors. Some rooms became inaccessible, because they were hidden behind walls, and some have been isolated by concrete, plumbing, insulation, or sound-absorbing materials. Different times of the day were simulated via fixed outdoor lamps. In 2001, during the Venice Biennale, Schneider built a Totes Haus u r inside the German pavilion. He transported a total of 24 original rooms, by ship, using 100 packing pieces that had a combined weight of 150 tonnes, from Rheydt to Venice. The artist rebuilt the rooms inside the German pavilion into a house with double walls and double floors, on the ground inside a house (just as he did in Rheydt).
Ger van Elk, The Well Shaven Cactus, 1969
Dutch artist Ger van Elk emerged in the late 1960s among a generation of early conceptual artists intent on rejecting the hegemony of painting. Despite this, he always maintained a close relationship with the Western painting tradition, using photography to meditate upon it. Throughout his life, Van Elk maintained a remarkably interdisciplinary and varied practice, ranging from sculptures and installations in line with Arte Povera, to strikingly progressive video and photographic works. Van Elk used ingenious staging and a humorous, playful approach to undermine the traditional dividing-lines between painting, sculpture, and photography, as well as between the two-dimensional and the three-dimensional.
Mariko Mori, Love Hotel, 1994
Mariko Mori is a multidisciplinary Japanese artist whose work explores identity – both human and alien, the discrepancies between utopia and reality, and our universal shared consciousness. She explores these themes through performance, video, photography, and sculpture.
This is exemplified in Love Hotel, a problematic composition that makes the viewer question the boundaries between art photography and fashion photography. Mori’s work makes one wonder whether the art world’s current taste is for arty fashion or for fashionable art. It not only makes a commentary on Tokyo’s famous love hotels, but also makes us think about real connections between self-portraits, modelling and stereotypes of women in submissive roles.
Gelatin, The B thing (a temporary balcony at the World Trade Center in NY), 2000
Four artists from Austria known as Gelatin removed the glass from a ninety-first-floor window of the World Trade Centre, suspended a balcony out of the window, and stood on it for ten minutes. What they did was a violation of everything that the most imposing of corporate office spaces literally stood for. The artists’ statement explained the project with a directness and honesty that is typical of Gelatin’s work: “The project balcony has been developed from a very strong desire to step outside a window on 91st floor. The balcony is about the feeling you have when you stand on it and about the pleasure you absorb, when being totally dependent on a structure and atmosphere you have created yourself”.
Jonas Lund, Paint your Pizza, 2013
Jonas Lund is a Swedish artist based between Berlin and Amsterdam. His work critically reflects on contemporary networked systems and power structures. His interests stretch across a range of interdisciplinary media, focusing on the reciprocal potential of combining web-based works with video, performance and installation. Paint Your Pizza is an artwork produced during a collaborative residency between Eyebeam in New York and Baltan Labs in Eindhoven. The audience was invited to paint their own pizzas and then order them.
Jan Dibbets, TV as a fireplace, 1968-1969
In 1969, Gerry Schum, the owner of a German video gallery, commissioned Jan Dibbets to produce TV as a Fireplace. For this work, Dibbets made a video recording of a fire burning in a hearth. Schum often worked with other artists, and in contrast to his contemporaries, he saw television broadcasts as an artistic medium. With that in mind, he arranged for the German broadcaster WDR3 to send out TV as a Fireplace on the last eight evenings of 1969. The broadcasts were not accompanied by any mention of the artist or the artistic character of the broadcast. Through this reticence, Dibbets made a statement about how television had taken over the central role in our lives that the open fireplace had once played.
Ceal Floyer, Door, 1995
Ceal Floyer’s work takes many forms, but it is always imbued with her very particular sense of humour and a keen awareness of the absurdity of life. Floyer creates concise sculptural installations that are deceptive in their apparent simplicity – never quite what they seem, but never pretending to be anything else. With an impressive clarity of thought and endless wit and ingenuity, she uses ordinary objects and materials, transforming our perception of them with the purest economy, teasing out for us a web of new meanings. Every part of the piece – its title, materials, and surroundings – is exhaustively put to work in service of her ideas. Floyer’s Door is an illusionistic strip of brilliant white light projected onto a closed door; the light seems to flood from beneath, offering the possibility of a world beyond.