Exhibition Essay

At the end of The Wizard of Oz, the Good Witch of the North tells Dorothy that she can return home by clicking her heels together and repeating “There’s no place like home.  There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home.” Even a cursory look at the work in this OCCA / VAALA collaborative exhibition Home tells us emphatically that there is indeed no longer a place like home, at least not the home to which Dorothy and Toto return at the end of the film. If there is any vestige of a connection between today’s home and the home depicted in the 1939 film, it is the home seen at the beginning of the film rather than the end, the home that is swept up into the clouds by a twister, the unstable, topsy-turvy structure that has been ripped from its foundations and hurled skyward.  Dorothy’s floating bed, the whirling images and nightmare dizziness transform the familiar into the frightening which is the case with many of the pieces in this exhibition. The home, as depicted in this exhibition is a site occupied, for the most part, by dysfunctional families and disoriented people.

It has been said that adults don’t have homes only children do. The ideal home, that place that represents comfort, safety and control is often, for adults a wishful fantasy that some of us spend our entire lives trying to return to. That is, of course, impossible. "You can't go back home to your family, back home to your childhood ... back home to a young man's dreams of glory and of fame ... back home to places in the country, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time – back home to the escapes of Time and Memory." (Thomas Wolfe You Can’t Go Home Again). 

As we see again and again in this exhibition, the real or imagined homes of our childhoods have been abandoned and they are presented as ruins. Or they have been demolished entirely, bulldozed away in the name of progress. The pressures of a downturned economy have transformed them from brick and mortar structures into mobile homes, tents and in the worst case scenarios they have disappeared altogether leaving their residents literally home-less. 

Those that still exist are no longer safe havens, they are invaded by electronic media that lay siege to privacy disrupt intimacy. What little hope for the idea of home that we see in this work is in images of people who have made an uneasy peace with chaos, who have been able to relax into disorder, who have found a sense of meaning in mythologizing their mundane lives, who have made their homes into places of mystery and seduction.  Ultimately every artist in this show has found a home for him or herself in being an artist, in making art and thereby creating that safe place of comfort and control for themselves – a home within a home.

Richard Turner, June 2014