In the Dwelling-House
2006 | In the Dwelling-House was an archeological look at an historic working-class home that provided a glimpse into the lives of generations of former residents. Visitors walked through the home at 516 Sampsonia Way and viewed careful excavation, presentation, and recreations of what was left behind. My work in the house highlighted details I found fascinating, but there were many, many more that I chose not to address. My goal was to show the viewer some of what I saw and to facilitate their journey through the space. The spaces we inhabit inevitably tell a story. The abandoned rooms of 516 Sampsonia are filled with information about people none of us know, and a time we never experienced. My interest is in what we may learn about ourselves from considering what they left behind.
The title for the piece comes from this quote by Emerson’s 1870 essay “Domestic Life”: Is it not plain, that not in senates, or courts, or chambers of commerce but in the dwelling-house must the true character and hope of the time be consulted? These facts are, to be sure, harder to read. It is easier to count the census, or compute the square extent of a territory, to criticise its polity, books, art, than to come to the persons and dwellings of men and read their character and hope in their way of life. Yet we are always hovering round this better divination. In one form or another we are always returning to it.