The Project

For Open for Inspection, Keely Macarow, Neal Haslem, Mim Whiting and Mick Douglas will research trends in Australian and Swedish housing to explore how these countries deal with housing stress and homelessness. We will investigate how aspirations for housing and home ownership can be signified through objects, material, graphic and video interventions, and create new artworks and public forums for the Front Space at West Space (Melbourne) that respond to the aspiration of homefullness (rather than homelessness). The installation will be informed by Swedish Functionalist architecture and the design conceits of the Swedish company IKEA, which through its standardized manufacturing has furnished and framed our understanding and aspiration of contemporary housing. We will install new artworks and present public forums over the 4.5 weeks of the exhibition period from 26 June – 26 July 2014.

The exhibition will be installed in four stages over the course of the exhibition period and contain a floor based work, furniture and objects which contain graphics and text and video interventions that explore contemporary Australian and Swedish housing, housing stress and homelessness. For week 1, the artists will install a floor based blueprint of a kitchen and lounge in the Front Gallery out of plywood. This floor based work will mark out a the layout of a Swedish functionalist style home. In Week 2, kitchen and lounge settings will be installed in the Gallery. These domestic settings will feature a kitchen table and chairs, and a lounge and video. A real estate book featuring photos and information about a range of inner city Melbourne houses and homes from the outer suburbs of Whittlesea will probe similarities and differences between inner and outer suburbs of Melbourne. Kitchen objects such as breadboards will grace the kitchen table. These artefacts will either contain extracts from our Manifesto for Full Housing or graphic narratives which respond to our aspiration for homefullness. A video monitor in the lounge will screen Moving, where a number of house moves at various locations will be intercut with shots of boxes being packed, loaded and unloaded in a van, rooms piled with boxes, difficult stairs and furniture to navigate, sound and vision that makes people exhausted at the thought of moving. It will reinforce the tension that lies behind insecure housing and the adaptability it takes to move into a house and create a home. Housing insecurity also typically means moving often, moving to smaller premises and moving at the decree of others.

The demands of our Manifesto for Full Housing and contemporary Australian and Swedish housing research will be embedded in and inform the artworks and public forums devised for the project. The exhibition will include a level of self reflexivity with the narratives communicated through the objects and video influenced by our own experiences with precarious housing. The exhibition will experiment with the traditional exhibition processes where everything is created to be ready by the opening night. Our exhibition will instead unfold over the duration of the exhibition period so we can experiment with the tensions and conceits of moving and settling into a new home.

On a Saturday afternoon during week 2 we will run cups of tea around the kitchen table in which visitors share their ideas of and experiences with housing which will be documented for the other events. In week 3, there will be a live public printing event in which questions and comments arising from the exhibition and the cups of tea forum will be converted into graphic narratives and printed in situ. The artists will print and iron t-towels on site in the Front Gallery. In week 4, there will be a House Meeting: a public forum of presentations about housing, housing stress, homelessness and homefullness with artists: Keely Macarow and Neal Haslem plus invited speakers such as: Margie Mckay (Coordinator of Urban Design, City of Whittlesea) Dr Marcus Knutagard, (School of Social Work, Lund University, Lund, Sweden), Ande Bunbury, (AndeBunbury Architects), Spike Chiappaloni (an ex-long-term homeless person and member of the Council for Homeless Person’s Peer Education Support Program), (tbc), Dr Guy Johnson, (the Centre for Urban Research, RMIT University), and speakers from Australians for Affordable Housing (tbc) and the Victorian Government Architect, Geoffrey London (tbc). The presentations will be followed by discussion and facilitated by Mick Douglas. This participatory event will consist of presentations by the speakers and open to contributions from the audience which may comprise questions, answers, statements, provocations and stories.

Our aim is to experiment with form, narrative and content and relational and socially engaged art and participatory design practices. Our methodologies will fuse methods from the various disciplinary areas that we practice – art, graphic design, architecture, industrial design and housing research. Our motivation is to engender discussion about housing stress, affordability and aspiration because we believe that Australian housing requires new and varied options to ensure that everyone living in this country is housed in secure, affordable and sustainable housing.

The artists are members of the Untitled, a Melbourne and Stockholm based collective of artists, urban, graphic and industrial designers, architects and housing researchers. Our objective is to work collaboratively and across disciplines to examine issues connected with homelessness and housing stress so that we can collectively move to homefullness: a future where we will have housing for all. Members of the collective are freelance artists and designers, or based at RMIT University, Melbourne, the City of Whittlesea, Victoria, KTH, Stockholm, Lund University, Lund, Sweden.

All the artists will be involved in the design and install of the kitchen and lounge furniture and settings and all stages of the project and participate in the cup of tea, live print run and house meeting events.

Keely Macarow will oversee the coordination, financial management and reporting of the project. Keely and Neal Haslem will produce the real estate book and Keely will coordinate the House Meeting. Keely will contribute to the design of the narratives for the t-towels.

Neal Haslem and Mick Douglas will design, build and install the floor based blueprint installation and the furniture for the exhibition. Neal will design the graphics interventions for the kitchen artefacts and the t-towels, coordinate the live print run and the cup of tea event.

Mim Whiting will produce the video for the lounge setting and co-organise the cup of tea event.

Mick Douglas will co-design, build and install the floor based installation and facilitate the House Meeting.

This exhibition project connects with projects such as Martha Rosler’s 1989 project at the Dia Foundation, ‘If you lived here’ which included an exhibition, public meetings and a book to explore perceptions and problems in housing in New York City; the provocative architecture and design studio, urban-think tank (Caracas/Zurich) who works around the premise that current architecture fails to engage the needs of poorer people living in large cities; Australian artist, Elvis Richardson’s Housed exhibition at the Margaret Lawrence Gallery, Melb (2009) which explored the gulf between Australian public and private housing by installing old carpet from a public housing flat in the gallery to suggest the traces and lives of former tenants and Untitled Collective member, Mick Douglas’ LiveHouse, a mobile performance platform project created in collaboration with residents of the Carlton Housing Estate, Melbourne (2009-2010) which explored mobility, migration and housing commissioned as part of the Carlton Flats Arts Project produced by the Community Cultural Development Program City of Melbourne.