Alice Street: Images from a House

Kurb Gallery, 312 A William Street: 25 – 31 August 2012.
Opening Sunday 26 August, 2.00 pm
Hours: 2.00 – 7.00 pm daily.
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For a knowledge of intimacy, localization in the spaces of our intimacy is more urgent than determination of dates.

Gaston Bachelard

Updated, 8 June 2015

From early April until late September 2012 I was living in an empty house that had belonged to my parents, taking photos, some of which were shown in an exhibition at the Kurb Gallery in August that year. (See below for images of work in progress at the time.)

During the exhibition I was encouraged by responses to make a book of my experiences living in the empty house, showing photographs taken over the period. That book is now almost ready for printing. I will post an update when it comes off the press.

I wrote at the time I was preparing the exhibition:

The photographs for this exhibition have mostly been taken in an empty house, that of my parents who died a few years ago. I will use these images, and others of the family life centred on the house, to try to reveal the power of such images as constellations of memory. I have been living in the house while it is being sold, and this has allowed me to reflect on its spaces, its place in Bellevue, the suburb in which it is situated, and the kind of life that has been and can be lived here.

The rhythms of my life have had to adjust to those of the house and its location, and this will be an aspect of the exhibition.

I have walked a lot in the area, and enjoyed using public transport from here to go to work and to visit my home and meet with friends. This has helped me to think of the way houses become centred in the lives of their inhabitants, and how we create maps in our minds of the tracks to and from our homes.

One aspect of living in the house has been the different noises I hear. It is a noisy place, being in a flight path, near two major highways, and a freight rail line. But I have actually come to enjoy the sounds, especially at night. I observe the planes coming in to land at Perth Airport, sometimes flying low under the clouds if it is raining. I have come to expect to hear a freight train passing not too far away at about 11 o’clock at night. I hear its whistle sound as I am getting ready for bed. Even the trucks on the highway do not annoy me as much as they might have. I have also got used to the neighbour’s sub-woofer now I know I do not have to listen to it every night. Unfortunately of course, these sounds do not appear in the images, although I hope that some of the atmosphere they produce will be present.

There are other presences which have to be inferred from the images. My parents lived in the house for about thirty years. Although my father died in a nursing home, his remains were brought home for three days before his burial. A few years later, my mother died here in the room in which I have been sleeping. I have attempted to make some images that recall these events.

Of course, thanks to the house, a great many of our memories are housed, and if the house is a bit elaborate, if it has a cellar and a garret, nooks and corridors, our memories have refuges that are all the more clearly delineated. All our lives we come back to them in our daydreams.

Gaston Bachelard

It has been hard work taking the photographs, and even harder selecting images for the show and deciding how they will be hung. An important aim for me is to invite viewers to reflect upon the ways their own memories are located in the life of houses, and the objects and textures of quotidian life.

Here are a few images to show work in progress. Click on the thumbnails to view larger images.