For Walter Benjamin the home at the beginning of the 20th Century was like a universe for the private citizen. To represent the home was not just à la mode but domestic interiors became metaphors for bourgeois identity. Ellen Key’s 1899 treatise ‘Beauty in the Home’ connects moral aspects of family life and childrearing with domestic aesthetic choices. The paradox in art history of the home in avant-garde art and architecture has been researched elsewhere: often shunned as too private, soft, feminine or bourgeois, yet domestic interiors are central to the making of modernity. This project investigates another aspect of the domestic paradox, namely it’s symbolic value in response to specific cultural, political and artistic contexts.
As several thinkers have explored, to have a home, to be at home or the longing for home is a shared human experience across cultures and generations. Or is it? This comparative study will analyse the way in which the concept of domesticity in art is a shared longing in a philosophical sense, an aesthetic tradition in modernist art across continents. It will also explore the heterogeneity of the term and its complex genealogy. The time frame is set between the revolts of the late 1960s to the dismantling of the iron curtain at the end of the 1980s.
In countries in the west where the women’s movement changed society, such as the US and Sweden, domestic scenes set in the home became political, ideological and aesthetic issues for liberation, emancipation and class struggle during the period. But in the USSR and Poland representations of home in art got a different trajectory. If the women’s movement in the west wanted to break free from the home in Sweden making the personal political, state politics in totalitarian states intervened in the detailed everyday running of personal life.
The aim with this research is to further an understanding of representations of the domestic as heterogenic and culturally specific, but importantly also to break up the all too dominant western understanding of the central concept home or domestic in art. It is carried out as comparative research through in depth case studies. The starting point is work by artists on the Swedish scene Dick Bengtsson (1936-89), Gittan Jönsson (b. 1948), Björn Lövin (1937-2009 and canonical art from Poland by Jaros?aw Koz?owski (b. 1945) and Russia by Ilia and Emilia Kabakov (b. 1933 & 1945). The result will hopefully cast further light on the time and its art and not the least the heterogeneity of the term domestic – which is of such fundamental importance to mankind.