Catalogue Essay: Home 2

Words by Sarah Thomson

Marisa Georgiou / Misticism / 2016 / Photo: Julia Scott Green

The prevailing popularity of Queenslander type houses indicates how strongly they resonate with our sense of familiarity and nostalgia. They are characterised by wide, encircling verandas, corrugated tin roofs, porticos and latticework, built high on stilts. They range from one-bedroom workers cottages to grand hilltop houses to haphazard built-upon and added-to hybrids. They have come to represent an idealised way of living in Queensland: one that melds the indoors and outdoors and emphasises leisure and shared social spaces through sunrooms, verandas and backyards. But these domestic dwellings are far from perfect. Despite being often described as vernacular in their adaptation to the sub-tropical climate of Brisbane, anyone who has spent a balmy summer’s night in a stifling hot Queenslander can testify that this claim is not entirely true.

Modernist architect Karl Langer critiques the notion that the Queenslander fulfils its ambitious reputation as a climatically responsive form of architecture and suggests that Queenslanders are too often just a house placed on a piece of land with no consideration for the conditions of the site. Herein lies the problem of the Queenslander. Its colonialist past is echoed in its form as it struggles to adapt to and tame the environment in which it is placed. Built from affordable, lightweight materials, Queenslanders tend to show their age when exposed to the harsh climatic conditions of the region, resulting in a ramshackle appearance well known to most Brisbanites. The exteriors of once regal properties seem to sag in the humidity, their façades of domestic bliss slipping over time.

Home 2 investigates place and identity through these unique domestic dwellings, inviting four local artists to critically analyse four distinct spaces of the Queenslander: the bedroom, the bathroom, the sunroom and the backyard. Teagan Ramsay’s Built for One, Housing Two (2016) investigates arguably the most private space in the house, the bedroom, seeking to open locked doors and expose the intimate spaces that reveal clues about their inhabitants. Reminiscent of Tracey Emin’s My Bed (1998), Ramsay’s work is a reconstruction of a bedroom in the warehouse space, littered with the detritus of life, highlighting the disconnect between our ideal and realised lifestyles and challenging us to define what an ideal lifestyle might actually mean to us.

Miranda Hine’s installation, Miss Beebee’s Bathroom (2016), personifies the Queenslander’s contradictions in relation to race, gender and domesticity by reconstructing an idealised fictional woman’s bathroom. Focusing on the gendered domestic space, Hine confronts our tendency to romanticise and selectively remember events of the past with fondness. In much the same way, our nostalgic attitude towards Queenslanders is a symptom of our tendency to gloss over or even glorify aspects of Queensland’s tumultuous past.

The inclusion of the backyard and sunroom in Home 2 highlights the importance of these spaces as ‘rooms’ in the Queenslander and our relationships with mediated forms of nature. Julia Scott Green’s Sunroom (2016) confronts inherited Western ideologies and value systems, investigating the colonial origins and climatic inappropriateness of the sunroom. The sunroom, or enclosed veranda, has evolved as a sort of inbetween room for flexible use that functions as an amalgamation of the inside and outside, letting one enjoy the outdoors without having to actually be outdoors.

Australians are known for our love of the great outdoors, yet the extent to which we experience nature on a daily basis is usually limited to our own backyards and our fenced-off patches of nature. Marisa Georgiou addresses the backyard as a sight of small-scale urban sublime in Misticism (2016), highlighting our contrived attempts to connect with nature within our comfortable domestic boundaries. Her use of a water feature, spotlights and commodified decorator pebbles like those easily bought from Bunnings, creates a tension between our desire to simultaneously connect with and control the natural world.

Home 2 attempts to reveal the hidden structures that are embedded in the physical structures we inhabit; the spaces that shape and are shaped by our ideologies. The exhibition analyses the Queenslander from the context of an oppositional structure – an industrial warehouse. From this distance, the four works construct a critical rather than a nostalgic framework, allowing us to view the Queenslander as the problematic structure that is. The exhibition explores the way in which our idealised lifestyles, a way of living in which we are comfortable and content, is often unachievable or flawed despite our best efforts. Perhaps just as these domestic façades deteriorate, so does the ‘ideal lifestyle’ the inhabitants intend to project.

See more documentation here.