Dwelling on the everyday: architecture, ghosts, ellipses

Alice Sanger Announcement
United Kingdom
Subject Fields
Architecture and Architectural History, Art, Art History & Visual Studies, Cultural History / Studies, Urban History / Studies

Dwelling on the everyday: architecture, ghosts, ellipses 

8 and 29 July 2022 (via Zoom)



Helen Hills, University of York (helen.hills@york.ac.uk)

Alice Sanger, The Open University (alice.sanger@open.ac.uk)


This symposium attends to the relationships between everyday architecture where people lived and what is left behind, salvaged, celebrated, or overlooked, but may sometimes be reactivated in powerful and unpredictable ways by those who come later. We are interested (though not exclusively) in the houses of artists and writers and the ways in which they are often treated like relics or holy shrines by subsequent fans and scholars. What, if anything, can we glean about artists (or others) from the places where they dwelled? And to what ends? What effects did their houses and places of residence exert upon them? How were they designed, bought, painted, furnished, divided, fought over, and lost? And in what ways and by whom were the houses lived in? What of children, spouses, extended family, caretakers and cleaners, au pairs and servants? And what of those places which are not celebrated but are quickly forgotten or ignored? Current scholarship on artist-homes and most museum presentations tend to collapse house into biographical facts / artist's work. How might one avoid reducing the artist and their work simply to what is projected onto (what remains of) their home and vice versa?  


We are particularly interested in the ways in which the past resonates in places of dwelling, how it leaves its mark on places and how people leave their mark on their dwellings. What traces are left and how are they celebrated, fetishized, banished or ignored? What do the places inhabited reveal about those who inhabited them? How are these connections assumed or traced or made by visitors or scholars or those who come later? What role does temporality play in these relations?  How might the power of a place to conjure up the apparently vivid presence of its past be traced or accounted for? How is it triggered, enhanced, or suppressed? What role does such haunting have in academic writing, or in autobiographical or biographical pursuits? In what ways is it useful to seek such connections – or is it they which, in some way, rather seek one out? 


We are also interested in places beyond the house, where people actually spent most of their lives: where they grew up, where they died, or where they chose to be -- if, indeed, this was a choice they managed to have. Is a ‘house’ too conventional or restrictive a limit to think through what is at stake here? What of the lodgings, apartments, offices, warehouses, factories, gardens, sheds, huts, workshops, tents, tree houses, or the places where they roamed and spent most time or were most restored? Is it the house where they lived that we should be concerned with, or, for instance, the homes of their friends, their favourite café, local pub, the market, or their mosque? What of those who were not rich and who lived in places where they left few traces? What of working-class homes? And what of people without a home at all: how might refugee camps and migrant houses be considered? How can we take them at least as seriously as rich people who splashed out on bourgeois trappings and property?


Format: We are planning two afternoon sessions on Zoom; with a combination of longer papers (20-30 mins) and short contributions (10-15 mins). Collaborative work will be particularly welcome. We will be delighted to receive abstracts of ca.500 words by 1 March 2022.  Please send to: helen.hills@york.ac.uk  and alice.sanger@open.ac.uk.

A special issue of the Open Arts Journal based on this conference is envisaged.

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