I’ve been rehearsing to write this testimonial for some weeks now. Today, it occurred to me that I have resisted producing this text because the very idea that flat 18B Bemuurde Weerd OZ will close feels very strange; or that The Grand Domestic Revolution will come to an end. I don’t think that things should last forever, on the contrary. But I would like to have spent more time there, to have been able to return and dedicate more time to reflection about all the complexities implied in this research before writing about my experience.
My first work at Casco was a small gesture of reaction to the Many Furniture project, which comprised of a handful of furniture pieces scattered around the house, each piece painted according to a colour system, indicating the intended different uses: one set allocated to the individual artist dwelling in the space, another for the collective use of artists, another for families, and further bigger sets for use in the days of public activity. I had proposed to experiment the individual artist system, the ones painted bright red. I made use of a red single bed, a red table, a red chair and a red stool, which served as a bedside table. I felt the lack of a space to keep the books I was using during the residency, so I decided to paint part of the bookshelf – originally painted lilac, the colour for art collectives – red. Besides, as a small protest against the system instituted by the architects, I painted one of the many stools for the days of public activity yellow. This action was dubbed More Furniture – red bookshelf and yellow stool.
The supposed addition suggested by the word “More” was, in fact, only a transformation of the colour – or of the use – of the furniture already in the flat, no new piece of furniture was added to the space.
When I returned to the house, more than a year later, it was inevitable to notice that a lot of stuff had piled up. New furniture, objects produced or used by artists in their work, objects of personal use scattered around the house, left behind by the residents. The slippers were no longer used, one walked around on shoes in all rooms. On the walls, the same pieces of paper from my first residence – newspaper cutouts, posters, maps – overlapped by more recent newspaper cutouts, posters and maps. In the dirty linen basket in the bathroom there were many pieces of bed linen, towels and dishcloths to be washed. I joked with Casco staff that they could hold a new town meeting to decide whether they preferred to keep the works of art or the furniture in the flat, a proposal I dubbed Less Furniture.
Joking aside, I needed to start work. I cleaned the inside of the house, I changed the places of all furniture around, opened all windows and doors and let the air in. I put away the carpet in the middle of the sitting room, took many pieces of papers off the walls and separated all personal objects I found – which I called “strange objects” – on a piece of cloth. I left the computer off for a week, so as to de-accelerate a bit and really take in that experience in its full. Opposite to what can be imagined, I was not preparing the space in order to start working in my art project. The very cleansing and sorting out stuff was my work.
I realised that I would not carry out much on my own, so I called for a collective cleaning work day. The idea was to suggest the cleaning of three specific spaces in the house: the front window gutters, the areas around the roof/balcony and the external entrance of the flat, which would include the common corridor of the building, the staircase and the entrance itself. In the day of the collective cleansing, only Yolande turned up to work. It would not be possible to clean out all that was planned, but I proposed that we did as much as possible in the period of time we spent together. I created the rule that we would not talk about anything that was not strictly linked to cleansing, such as “fetch me the broom” or “can you give me a hand here?”. We removed the dirt set in the gutter, the dust on the windows and we proceeded to the house’s external area. We swept all leaves lying by the roof and started to clean the balcony, which held many vases containing dead water, dead plants and broken objects/pieces of objects. There were many things forgotten in crevices/corners, just accumulating. From that space alone four rubbish sacks were filled up.
It was not possible to clean the entrance all the way up to the flat before the end of my residency and this remained as a challenge to everyone who was using that space. The wardrobes also held a lot of stuff and I did not know what could be donated or used afresh in the flat, what should be thrown away or recycled. Besides, the aim was not to leave the flat completely clean, but only to activate another perception of that space, reveal it. To work with domestic (or public) space is not necessarily a matter of what we put in the space, but, before, how it can be created and recreated.
Series of non-actions
1. turning off
3. sorting out
4. opening windows
5. having a shower