Homeland: the House, the Mother and the State

The house is usually the first place one fills in with memories, it holds the whole universe and galaxies, creates a primary sense of belonging and a notion of a home which one ends up seeking during his whole lifetime. This corner of the world1 contains all the dreams and fears, hopes and hallucinations, nostalgia and imprisonment. However, the home could also be hidden within an individual, trapped inside of them without their knowledge. Thus, discovered only by others, seen at all times through the gestures, bodies, actions and words. The home could also be displaced and spread across cities, countries and continents, it could be multiplied and increased, it could be never-ending and at times it could be carried within. The home could also be shattered, split in invisible, imperceptible pieces, influenced not only by the people inhabiting it but by the politics reigning it.

The house is one’s asylum, a sacred land deliberated to keep the unwanted away and permit the welcomed in – a physical border between ours and theirs, between the world and the others. Heidegger argued that the concept of dwelling in a physical space is a trait of consciousness and thus the reverse of ’’homelessness’’2. Although, the house usually implies to a constructed structure, a building which one inhabits, the home is not always associated with a house. Specifically, when the home is fractured, remains in the past, is distant or altered, one begins to seek for a substitute, but also for signifiers and glimpses of it elsewhere. The narratives entangled in Plexus by Elena Helfrecht blur the lines between fact and fiction. She traces her family history through objects and memorabilia, and while recreating these histories in her ancestors’ house, the home begins to resemble more a world of nightmares than one of dreams. In the Wizard of Oz (1939), Dorothy’s comfort and safety evaporate from the absence of her farmhouse, thus the highly coloured land of abroad in which she is displaced becomes less and less desirable for her3. In the same manner Laura Bivolaru seeks endlessly the misplaced pieces of ‘home’ at her new house in a foreign land, at the homes of her employers and at the department stores she visits. For both her and Dorothy the black and whiteness of the familiar seems to be the what the heart truly desires. Slicing and coalescing landscapes belonging to different lands spread across the globe is how Dafna Talmor constructs a ‘home’ – an imaginary, ethereal location visited only through the lens and the light. In her collages one can find their home, alongside many other homes but all of them non-existent in the physical realm. Embodying the past lives of her ancestors, through their photographs and with the use of her own body allows for an uncanny invention to occur in Macarena Costan’s series. Whilst, Gemma Mughini’s words occur in a plane, trapped in a non-definable location between countries and clouds, between the past and present – a story unfolds of both a current and never materialised memory of her father.

The family unit collides the split of the outside, contains all the guts and insides. Since life ensues within the mother, the relationship between a child and a parent is formed long before their first pictorial meeting. Initially, the infant perceives itself as an object, since it bears not only the genes but also the memories of its mother. Therefore, identifying the self begins from the analysis and imagination of the parent who first is involved in this task, and then the act is adopted by the child4. In Fons et Origo, the camera appears to function as an umbilical cord. The bodies of Greta Lorimer and her mother intersect, amalgamate and exist boundless. The lack of physicality and abundance of distance leads Lorimer to began using modern technology in order to construct their relationship. Hayleigh Longman finds means to negotiate a family rupture through the camera, using it as a meditator and a form of remedy, awaking silenced feelings through the collaboration between her and her mother in front of the lens. Ioanna Sakellaraki studies the shared grief of her mother and herself, departing on a spiritual and physical, contemporary and historical, real and imagined journey. As memory is moulded constantly by time, Sakellaraki uses photography to question the ongoing loss and absence and the ways one finds to cope with them. In a similar manner, Lorraine Wood plays with the fragility of memory – going back to the past, unfolding the beauty of the everyday family rituals, gazing to the vanished moments, she encapsulates ’’her grief for her Mum from the age of nine [which] was a raw onion she couldn’t peel’’5 in her writing. Nevertheless, Loreal Prystaj returns to Fairport, New York to intervene with the interior of her home. Inserting her own body in the domestic landscape, she confronts gender roles and appears as a detail. She investigates the role of the female within the American suburban landscape, whilst she plays with the house reimagining to be a child.

The homeland is usually associated with a spatial imagination, comfort and security, accompanied by a domestic material culture. Simultaneously, the home is a perception of society, a national identity, not only a space inhabited by the family, but also the everyday experience of a nation.6 Thus the home and the history of a place are meticulously interlinked in the eyes of the people inhabiting a specific piece of land. James Parkin observes photographs which depict the British society in the 1930s and begins to decipher and form situations. Stripping away the characteristic of this certain time by slicing, folding and shifting, he brings a new perspective of the nation – and an unusual space emerges where an individual is also the society, where a boulevard ends on the middle of a stadium. Meanwhile, Giulia Parlato questions the way history is composed; how much of it is true and how much has been rewritten. In her series Atlas of a Survival, she refers to Byzantine mosaics, Christian iconology and the geography of Palermo assembling a kitsch, exorbitant, fragmented vision of the Sicilian past. Constructing a hybrid space, a narrative of a home split between cultures and places, one existing everywhere and nowhere is what Nadine Hess has achieved in her series – encapsulating nostalgia, colours and breaths of a past anyone can imagine to have been a part of.  And while the home sometimes begins from the place where one was born, other times it could be lost in a distant land, whilst also being in a remote timeline. Cameron Williamson begins to study the landscape of Cornwall, searching for traces of his ancestors in the land – as they were miners and participated in the excavation of the earth in the 1800s. Joshua Phillips on the other side, decided to step inside of the ‘homeland’, developing a different angle to look at the British domestic life – exploiting traditional wallpaper designs, setups and structures his work at first seems to be situated in a specific historical time, but with a closer look one notices the layers of fantasy and verity blending unconditionally.

Associating with a culture or a country, to the material or impalpable sometimes feels unmanageable and incomprehensible. Migration changes the way one relates to a certain place, it modifies both feelings and attachment. As belonging is no longer a part of an individual or a community rooted in a specific location, but it is instead a place which the individual cherishes and longs for.7 Similarly as moving away, photography also distorts the alterations between roots or routes, centre and margin, local and global. Through the adaptation of anthropological and historical methods, by stepping back but also closer one can begin to see the true nature of a place and find elements of home. An elderberry place recounts the story of Anne Erhard’s family displacement after the WWII. The relationship to the land is dragged through places and found within the existence of a the mineral Moldavite – uncannily present at both the past and new home of the family. Legends intertwined with realities, voices of war and marks of the land bring together this psychogeographical and historic examination. In a similar way, Ëpha J. Roe dives in a world between mythologies, legends and state histories in a search of what condenses the British identity. On the other hand, Martin Seeds who grew up in Ireland and later migrated to England, imagines these ‘homes’ in his photographs by fabricating and decomposing them, portraying the fractured landscapes by political events such as The Troubles and Brexit. Following is the work of Samuel W.J. Fordham who narrates his personal encounter with the Home Office. The separation of his own family is both a personal and a national affair, becoming more prominent after the passing of Article 50. Mark Adams stands between the inside and outside, the home and the world that twitches beyond it; collecting voyeuristic glimpses of what takes place behind the curtains makes one wonder whether the photographs are perfectly staged or beautiful coincidences.

On the 22nd of June 2019, a group of 20 artists selected through an open call worked together for a day in the creation of this publication. The workshop was led by Revolv Collective: Krasimira Butseva, Lina Ivanova, Lucas Gabellini-Fava and Ibrahim Azab and guest book designer Victoria Kieffer.


1 G. Bachelard (1994) The poetics of space.
2 M. Heidegger (1951) Building, Dwelling, Thinking. 3 G. Perry (2013) Playing at home: The house in Contemporary art.
4 C. Bollas (1987) The shadow of the Object. Psychoanalysis of the Unthought Known.
5 L. Wood (2019) Home.
6 A. Blunt and R. Dowling (2006) Home (Key Ideas in Geography). 7 J. W. Duyvendak (2011) The politics of home. Belonging and nostalgia in Western Europe and the United States.

Essay by Krasimira Butseva

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