Look Up – Out Of Your House

I am looking at how we can see up- looking up into the sky – out of our houses.

We don’t look up into the sky usually. Have you tried it? It’s quite difficult.

Exactly how far up can you see or imagine?

I have been looking for a house that could host an art installation (You Are Here) that has a skylight that looks up into the sky. It has meant I have been looking at roofs and dormer windows and Velux skylights, and imagining looking out of them. This search has lead me to look and think more about houses.

Houses and buildings along the street are mostly, for me, unmemorable – unless you are in the process of renting or buying one. It seems to me that they are hard constructions, often ugly and expensive with an air of unforgivable quiet sultriness. I don’t think about mine while living in it constantly, but go about the daily chores dealing with the inside home – the inner shell.

However looking at the outer shells of a lot of houses I have almost begun to think of the windows themselves as eyes. I can imagine each house even with its gritty unremarkable out side, having its own cosy inside life, breathing with the warmth of its heating, expanding and contracting and making it’s own tiny creaking and groaning sounds, with the wind and rain playing on the windows.

Back to the art installation though, where the process then for me is looking at the outlook houses have – how their inhabitants can look up out of them and can be connected to the out side. Artist Gordon Matta-Clark, allows the onlooker to his work to deconstruct the shape and fabric of ‘the house’, treating it like a sculpture. He prompts the onlooker to question what we assume is the inside and what we assume is the out side of the usually unnoticed house. For me he takes the idea of inside a house, that we take for granted, and shows how it’s related to the outside of the house. He shows us that we don’t often think of the outside of the house when we are inside.

GORDON MATTA-CLARK | Moment to Moment: Space


Artist Mark Bain draws our attention to the private life of a building. Described in the online magazine – V2_, Institute for the Unstable Media, it says, ‘It’s the strangest thing thinking of all the buildings of being alive ……..He (Bain) looks at a building and finds the soul. By looking at the structure, the light, the architect(ure) and everything else that makes it original and alive. The movement of material, concrete, wood everything that’s there. And he builds all kinds of complicated machines to show it.’ (http://v2.nl/archive/people/mark-bain?searchterm=mark+bain).

Bain’s ‘complicated machinery’ is different to equipment I am planning to install in my house installation, but in essence the vibrations from under the house, experienced in the house, connects the house to it’s position on the surface of the rest of the planet. ‘The surface of the Earth’, as described by geologist and acoustician John Bullitt, ‘is always moving’. In an interview he describes the earth’s hum and man made sounds as,’ a tremendously rich stew of vibration. Some of it we can already hear. Some must be shifted to make it audible.’ http://www.jtbullitt.com/press/20080213-la-stampa/index.html

Looking up above the houses, as I have been doing lately, I’ve been thinking of the views up and the lumping depths under the un-noticed house. The un-noticed house has our attention as the quiet mediator of the familiar; we know what we understand by house. I went to a house that hosted a performance, Living Room Opera, accentuating the atmospheres of the house with recorded voices and live art actions for the In Between Time Festival. (http://ibt13.co.uk/) My own familiarity with being in a house (their house) allowed me to be drawn into the contrasting aspects of the piece: the usual and the unusual. The household’s ‘signature’ and the family feel of the place gave the ‘unusualness’ of the piece its authenticity.

After all the houses I have looked at and called to see, I have found a house where the very generous and friendly hosts are allowing me to dig down into their garden below the turf and rearrange their attic – where the sky light allows me to look up … and up!