DOLLHOUSE - ESSAY

 

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THE DOLLHOUSE

 

“A path is always between two points, but the in-between has taken on all the consistency and enjoys both autonomy and a direction of its own. The life of the nomad is the intermezzo” (Deleuze & Guattari 1987)

The term nomadism evokes a sense of the quixotic and typifies a transient way of being that exists beyond rigid institutionalized norms. Characterised by an ongoing state of flux, the nomad inhabits intermediate spaces that defy traditional definitions (Deleuze & Guattari 1987). The Wandering Room’s Dollhouse series of exhibitions can be seen as an embodiment of this term. This program of six shows took place within a typical child’s doll house, complete with two gallery spaces and a screening room: a miniature art museum. Each exhibition, consisting of a range of artists, from solo to group shows, was transported to a diverse spectrum of locations including New Farm Park, Ryan Renshaw Gallery and Miss Mouse fashion boutique. The Wandering Room have shown consistent commitment to collaborative and experimental art since its inception in 2007. Dollhouse exemplifies the collective’s non-traditional explorations of issues surrounding the temporal and ephemeral.

The nature of the miniature contains inherent dangers of being misinterpreted as an inferior object, contingent on the aggregation of visual detail. Conversely, the miniature could be seen to disclose a ‘profound vision’, enabling grand, daring gestures that may be impossible or garner less impact on a life-size scale (Rosenbaum 2005). Juan Miguel Aquilizan and Miriam Carter demonstrate this in the third exhibition of the Dollhouse program, Incursion. Here, Aquilizan uses mixed media to cover an entire section of the house with an effigy of a Christian church façade. By juxtaposing religious iconography onto a gallery structure, the artist effectively creates a dialogue between the art institution, worship and sanctity. Similarly, Carter’s delicately woven sculptural objects create a sense of hostility as they fill and invade the reduced gallery space they inhabit.

Dollhouse questions the value distinctions and hierarchies held by art institutions, and maintains a unique position located both within and outside this locus. Conceptually resembling Cornell’s Petit Musee (1947) and Duchamp’s Boite en Valise (1941-1949), Dollhouse acts as a portable gallery that, as Susan Rosenbaum explains,

“…manipulates scale to bring into focus a miniaturist gaze, which in its overly close or exaggerated attention to visual detail, denaturalises and critiques the acquisitive perspective and didactic practices associated with the museum.” (Rosenbaum, 2005)

Dollhouse can literally be transported and placed into a multitude of contexts, and this ability to change location so easily creates a fluxing site-specific framework for artists to respond to. Issues as broad as size and location, domesticity and memory, originality and duplication were each contemplated within its confines. In contrast to the increasingly popular temporary ‘pop up’ art spaces, the physical shell of the gallery remains. The familiarity of the dollhouse creates an unintimidating format that is attractive to diverse individuals. Exhibition openings were held in unexpected environments. The Dollhouse viewer became actively involved in the works as their curiosity draws them in to investigate details, much like a child. The audience’s proximity to the artworks offers a tactile investigation and a holistic reading, as the entire exhibition can be seen simultaneously. Dollhouse also comments on economic viability by presenting a solution for the paradox of showing contemporary and experimental art in a viable way.

For a gallery that occupies less than one metre square, Dollhouse has fostered a great deal of innovation by prompting artists to expand and reduce concepts and objects. It is also a space that asks both artist and audience to navigate a unique environment that embraces a transient model that brings out the child in all of us.

By Kylie Spear

1. Deleuze, G & Guattari F 1987, A thousand plateaus: capitalism and schizophrenia, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis.
2. Rosenbaum, S 2005, ‘Elizabeth Bishop and the miniature museum;, Journal of modern literature. Retrieved September 16, 2011