THE GRAND
DOMESTIC REVOLUTION

THE GRAND
DOMESTIC REVOLUTION

USER'S MANUAL

USER'S MANUAL

‘The Grand Domestic Revolution—User’s Manual’ (GDR) investigates the domestic space and its (changing) use through a variety of methods and disciplines, traversing the fields of art, design, architecture, urban planning, activism and theory. A number of artists and other practitioners contribute to this endeavour. Residents from 2009-2011 include Sepake Angiama, Paul Elliman, and Doris Denekamp who utilized neighbourhood and online research to create prototypes and interventions around the theme of (Green) Cooperativsm. Wietske Maas and Travis Meinolf experimented with Home Production; while 'interor' infrastuctural interventions for the furniture, library and hallways were created by ifau & Jesko Fezer, Mirjam Thomann and Graziela Kunsch. Current themes and residents from February–October 2011 include Kyohei Sakaguchi and Kateřina Šedá who will each investigate forms of usership in architectures; home and housing rights with Maria Pask and Nazima Kadir; the question of invisible and domestic labour taken up by Werker Magazine; Agency will continue its deliberations on copyright issues of domestic THINGS (gardens and textiles); and keywords in relations to food service work will be workshopped with Xu Tan. Parallel to this, the Read-in activity continues. Initiated by artist Annette Krauss and theatre maker, Read-in is an open reading group inhabiting a different neighbour’s home for every session.

LIBRARY

LIBRARY

The GDR library constitutes the backbone of our ongoing ‘living research’ and thus grows over time. The library offers points of engagement with the project and consists of different research materials such as books, articles, images and DVDs (artist’s video, films) that are available for viewing when visiting the apartment. The first installment was done by the GDR team and was later adapted by Sao Paulo-based artist Graziela Kunsch who suggested that the GDR team create thematic selections.

APARTMENT 18B

APARTMENT 18B

'The Grand Domestic Revolution-User's Manual' is a long-term project developed as Casco’s contribution to 'Utrecht Manifest: Biennial for Social Design'. The project deals with the evolutionary and collaborative process of “living” research in the contemporary domestic and private sphere – particularly in relation to the spatial imagining (or the built environment). It aims at re-articulating while exercising the notions of the social, the public and, eventually, the commons.

TOWN MEETINGS

IN AFFINITY

IN AFFINITY

Since August 2010, the GDR team have undertaken research in order to connect with the local neighbourhood on questions relating to peoples’ social conditions and material environments. Questionnaires, interviews, and conversations are the methods used to explore the themes and problems addressed in GDR, such as self-organised governance, co-operative living, and spatial organisation in and from the domestic sphere.

DUTCH ART INSTITUTE SEMINAR #4 WITH MARINA VISHMIDT

A group of artists from the Dutch Art Institute have joined the GDR since last October and continued a private research seminar with guest artists, architects, curators/theorists. This month theorist Marina Vishmidt will hold a seminar focusing on the feminist perspectives on the domestic labour. Although it’s not open for the public, those who are extremely interested are welcome to join the evening session with a lecture & screening of a film by Helke Sander (From the Reports of Security Guards & Patrol Services No. 1, 5, & 8, Germany 1984, 11mins / 1986, 10mins / 1985, 6mins. 19.00-21.00). Please consult us. For the synopsis of the lecture, please click Self-Negating Labour: A Spasmodic Chronology of Domestic Unwork.

What is still interesting about housework? There are several directions that could be taken here. Domestic work still figures as the work that is not really work, unless you can afford to pay someone to do it for you: it is the realm of reproduction, the daily, endless, prosaic activities that do not produce anything and whose character is repetition. They ensure that the conditions are in place for other kinds of activities – paid work outside the home, for example – and maintain institutions such as education, art and politics, both physically and socially. Here we start to see the ambiguous position of domestic work; it is both evidently work – a concrete interaction with the world that is performed by humans and achieves certain effects – and not work, since it is not socially recognized in the way other work is in capitalist societies, through a wage, a contract, and regulations. Globally and historically, it has been delegated largely to women, who patriarchy and capitalism argued were naturally situated in the home. Hence part of the political stakes of housework for feminism, especially its socialist and materialist tendencies, had to do with its central role in the gendered division of labour, and its status as the work that capitalism doesn’t pay for – at least not directly – but which it requires for capitalist paid work, and capitalist social relations more broadly, to continue every day. Finally, housework was an emblem of the domination that formed the basis of the ‘free’ and equal contract between the worker and the boss. Hence, there was a lot of effort put into identifying housework with ‘productive labour’, in Marxist terms, at a time when the workers’ movement was seen as a powerful and mobilizing progressive force. Included in this politics was also ‘socializing’ housework, as the private and atomised nature of labour in the home was seen as the source of its invisibility, and its weakness in the face of the ‘naturalizing’ ideologies of patriarchy, religion and capitalism. This fed into the feminist interrogation of the family unit as the ‘cell’ of capitalist social production, which was taken up by other social struggles linked to ‘minority’ articulations, such as gay and lesbian rights movement,

But in order to land this genealogy in the present, we would also need to look at housework as a political site, and its proximity to artistic work, as both are premised as being somehow not part of the social relations of wage-labour. This becomes even clearer through historical examples of feminist conceptual artists performing housework as art, which anticipates the emergence of ‘relational’, ‘affective’ and ‘creative’ modalities as key to the transformation of both work and art, and their shaping by the structural transformation of capitalism in the past several decades, e.g. ‘financialisation’, ‘neo-liberalism’, etc. This would take in the ‘culturalism’ of contemporary production and the melancholic recuperation of politics in the sphere of art as ‘participation’ and as a normative ‘criticality’, in line with the economic hegemony of ‘critical consumption’ and collectivities organized around such practices, especially online. The negativity of housework and artwork alike (they do not really ‘produce’ anything) can be both economically valorised (production of ‘something’ is no longer considered important) and act as a paradigm of the rejection of efficiency, rationality and commodification of time that still rule over our current moment of ‘non-production’.

A case study: 20th c history of domestic work has seen labour-saving strategies originating in the factory imported into the home – appliances, Taylorist routines. A good reference here is the ‘Frankfurt Kitchen’ at the birth of Modernism in the 1930s, which saw the liberation of the housewife to be liberation as a housewife, with a more rational arrangement of the kitchen, as opposed to Socialist feminists who saw this liberation as the collectivising of the drudgery of household work and the abolition of the wage – something that could not be brought about by design but only through class struggle. So domestic work also crystallizes the tensions at the heart of the Modernist project between social emancipation and a rational aesthetics of consumption, which persist to this day.

This loss of distinction between ‘work’ and ‘non-work’ might give indications of how sites such as home and art have been, or can be, potential sites of concepts and practices that anticipate post- and non-capitalist social relations, which would mean not payment for domestic labour or considering art just another form of work, but the dissolution of art and labour as separate and incompatible types of activity. Yet, paradoxically, in order to keep such a horizon in focus, it might be necessary to insist precisely on their incompatibility at a time when the ‘hollowing out’ performed by financialized modes of accumulation insist that in the general submission to the imperatives of the value-form, any distinctions or subjectivities that cannot be conflated with the anthropology of capital do not exist, and ‘crisis’ is simply an opportunity to impose this dogma more ruthlessly than ever.

NOTES

GDR Diary 5: Reading Perec

Following Sepake’s suggestion, on my last day at the apartment I read the beginning of Georges Perec’s Life A User’s Manual (2008, [1978]) to the plants.

It starts with


and then continues:

"To begin with, the art of jigsaw puzzles seems of little substance, easily exhausted, wholly dealt with by a basic introduction to Gestalt: the perceived object — we may be dealing with a perceptual act, the acquisition of a skill, a physiological system, or, as in the present case, a wooden jigsaw puzzle — is not a sum of elements to be distinguished from each other and analysed discretely, but a pattern, that is to say a form, a structure: the element’s existence does not precede the existence of the whole, it comes neither before not after it, for he parts do not determine the pattern, but the pattern determines the parts: knowledge of the pattern and of its laws, of the set and its structure, could not be possible derived from discrete knowledge of the elements that compose it."

[Here I started thinking about the domestic space as multilayered, open and in continuous flux.]

"That means that you can look at a piece of a puzzle for three whole days, you can believe that you know all there is to know about its colouring and shape, and be no further on than when you started. The only thing that counts is the ability to link this piece to other pieces, and in that sense the art of the jigsaw puzzle has something in common with the art of go. The pieces are readable, take on a sense, only when assembled; in isolation, a puzzle piece means nothing — just an impossible question, an opaque challenge."

[And at this point I started thinking about the GDR itself as an assemblage. The GDR as a project that is itself composed of individual projects, pieces, events and encounters that share transversal concerns that are not necessarily inscribed into a set of harmonious assumptions. For example, Mirjam Thomann's reflection on space through the installation of the Two Part Door is radically different from Martha Rosler's archival project on If You Lived Here... as a reflection on the contemporary relevance and possibilities of the engagement of art with community activism focused in the issues of housing, gentrification and displacement.]

"But as soon as you have succeeded, after minutes of trial and error, or after a prodigious half-second flash of inspiration, in fitting it into one of its neighbours, the piece disappears, ceases to exist as a piece."

[The inexistence of an overarching framework of interpretation of the project is directly related to its definition as an exploratory reflection on spatiality as a condition to individual action and artistic engagement, here analysed through a focus on the domestic space. And in this direction, perhaps what matters the most is not the possible similarities that are to be identified among the individual projects but, on the contrary, the potential that is presented by the GDR to articulate the fundamental relationship between the multilayered depth of space and the agonistic character of the artistic-design interventions that can be developed with it in mind.]

"The intense difficulty preceding this link-up – which the English word puzzle indicates so well – not only loses its raison d’être, it seems never to have had any reason, so obvious does the solution appear. The new pieces so miraculously conjoined are henceforth one, which in its turn will be a source of error, hesitation, dismay, and expectation. (…)"

[Yes, I had managed to grasp something. And then I read a little longer ---this time in silence --- to myself.]


25 May 2010, 23.37 — posted by Mafalda

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