19 October 1993

Home is where the art is

It's knock-off time. Time to wend your way back to your quarter-acre of heaven, your dream home in the 'burbs. But something's not quite right here.
There are 36 perfectly formed sand castles on the back patio, and three chocolate brains in the kitchen, gathering mould. The upstairs toilet is wall-papered with signs warning"Danger - Corrosive" and in your daughter's bedroom there's a neon sign blaring "No never means yes".
And where's the TV gone? Someone's put it in the roof, but you can watch it through the periscope in the walk-in wardrobe. Suddenly you scream: "This is not my beautiful house | This is contemporary art |"
You have stumbled into Sweet Dreams, a satellite exhibition for Perspecta, the Art Gallery of New South Wales's biannual survey of contemporary art.
Sweet Dreams is the brainchild of the curators Isobel Johnston and Suhanya Raffel. They have chosen eight artists to design work specifically for"Balmoral", a dream home at Homeworld II, the country's largest project home village at Prospect, near Blacktown in Sydney's west.
"I think this is a pretty logical step," says Johnston. "Many artists today are working with domestic ideas and this house can provide a venue where you have an audience which was already prepared to look at the notion of the home when they come to view the work."
Raffel says the show is another example of the growing interest by artists in working outside museum and gallery spaces.
"But we were also aware that a lot of art in public spaces has been difficult and not particularly successful because the work was usually in 'nowhere' places like billboards or in transit on the backs of buses," Raffel says. "This site, however, comes with it's audience. The audience has come to buy a home, not to go to an art gallery.
"Sweet Dreams also shows that there is a growing awareness at the art gallery of its responsibility to greater Sydney."
The curator Victoria Lynn has talked about this year's Perspecta as dwelling on, among other things, "the shadowy side of urban nightmares and suburban utopia", and Sweet Dreams embraces that spirit to the letter.
Eugenia Raskapoulos chose the daughter's bedroom for her neon installation for obvious reasons.
"Neon can be such a seductive, beautiful source of light but the message it carries here isn't such a pretty sight," she says.
"Because alongside all those dreams of owning a house and having a wonderful family, there are many women out there who have been oppressed within this environment. Rape can and does start at a very young age with incest and my piece is dealing with all those issues."
A number of the works are time-based sculptures which emphasise decay and disorder, such as Neil Wing's chocolate brains and Therese Saaib's 36 sand castles. Saaib fully expects the elements and visiting children to gradually destroy the precisely formed castles.
It was Robyn Bracken's idea to watch TV through a periscope in the closet. Her piece plays formally with the mechanics of perception but there's also a symbolic dimension.
"In a house like this the television is often the focal point of family life so I just wanted to dislodge it from that pride of place into a secret, closeted place."
So why would a commercial builder like Clarendon Homes willingly let a bunch of artists loose in one of their packaged dreams?
"Ultimately the public's perception will be that we are involved in what's happening today," says Clarendon's marketing manager, Peter Brown.
"It's not about house design or development of future housing trends. It's a personal view by the various artists of their interpretation of the family home."
The exhibition runs seven days a week until November 21.
Caption: ILLUS: Step inside for chocolate brains...the artists with marketing manager Peter Brown (right), all part of an unusual project. Picture by Ben Rushton.
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Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Publication date: 19-10-1993
Edition: Late
Page no: 23
Section: News and Features
Length: 756
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