As architecture offers an ideal venue for the display of personal connoisseurship and social disposition, so too does it provide the framework upon which we situate material proof of our imperialistic influences, past and present, as high fashion and good taste. Mined from interior design magazines, and repositioned away from their original context, the images of domestic architecture in this series become markers for the role documented images play in the distillation of history, and, more specifically, in what Adam Hochschild calls “the politics of forgetting.” They are held up as a mirror to the carefully rendered and revealing territory we call home.
We in the West have often felt the compulsion to collect and preserve artifacts of the exotic. In turn, we have been quick and efficient in transforming the once authentic into an artificial or genericized experience, often for the purpose of constructing the illusion of a personal sense of high style and worldliness. The journey from ordinary to seemingly exotic is often and easily mediated by a third party in the form of interior designers —purveyors of taste who reciprocate influence with the editors of the glossy publications that help shape our desires and set the tone for the unattainable perfection of this romanticized and self-gratifying fiction.
Unlike 16th – 18th century European cabinets of curiosity, which with their specimens of natural objects more often than not inspired knowledge and wonder (though they too were an indulgent activity for the privileged), these contemporary domestic tableaux remain exclusively ornamental. The presence of an ostrich egg on a living room bookshelf might suggest trips abroad, but is in fact a prop, a department store purchase made for a client by an interior designer with a certain “look” in mind.
Just as the drafting of a map can not only give an overview, but suggest territorial authority, the act of transforming the domestic space into one with a fabricated sense of the exotic is reminiscent of colonial aspirations. In this instance, however, the colonization is achieved without the personal commitment of arduous physical effort or the gritty risk-taking of actual occupation, with real and often bloody resistance. The only investment necessary is financial. As a result, the original, messy colonial experience, for example, becomes abstract and marginalized to the point of inconsequence – an example of our taste inadvertently reflecting the history of our imperial politics.
Chromogenic prints, dimensions vary (approx. 32 in. at longest side)
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