Making Home, Destroying House
Beauty and the Disquiet Space of Ethics

Atelier et intervention performative et atelier présentés en collaboration avec Devora Neumark lors du symposium THE IDEA OF HOME, organisé par Dr Ruth Balint et Dr Julie Kalman, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australie, 1-2 novembre 2010.

The Second World War was the catalyst for the uprooting and displacement of millions of people, leading to the category of the refugee in western legal thought and the perception of exile as a newly modern phenomenon.

The loss of home and the mourning of displacement, it has since been argued, became the core of the modern condition.

Theodore Adorno, exiled to America during the war years, was to write upon his return to Germany that: “Dwelling, in the proper sense has become impossible”, and that, it is “part of morality not to be at home in one’s home.” For Adorno, the home could no longer be understood as a place of physical refuge, although exile also taught him that language, rather than spatial territory, was what ultimately constituted a sense of belonging. Since then, the loss of home and the impulse of return have become universal themes of the recent history of migration.

Many scholars in recent decades have begun to refashion older notions of exile, transferring the qualities of marginality, instability and loss into desirable qualities of the postmodern condition, while at the same time asserting the home as a myth. Nomadism and diasporism have become the dominant explanatory modes of existence in a global, deterritorialised, world. The imagination of the utopian home is now more often a virtual one, and even the phenomenon of videoing, or blogging about, one’s home space online has transformed the association of privacy into one of projection, instant transportation and mass communication. However as Eva Hoffmann notes, the new postmodern scholarship of home and exile is problematic in that it underestimates the sheer human cost of exile; it also leads to a dangerous devaluing of the importance of actual space and territory in the politics of the dispossessed. Many are still fighting, killing and dying, for soil, and for the right of return to homelands.

This conference thus asks what forms the idea of home have taken since World War Two.

Dr Ruth Balint et Dr Julie Kalman
Extracts from Call for papers: The Idea of Home symposium
Conference Summary

CRÉDIT Photographie,  Louise Lachapelle

A tiny songbird, the Brown Creeper (Certhia americana), has a very specific tolerance limit to the exploitation of its habitat. Trees provide its food, protection and nesting. The presence of the Brown Creeper in its native forest environment is a sign of a sane ecosystem; furthermore, this bird’s spatial and living competencies have the potential to help foresters determine how to establish sustainable forest use, leading to selective cutting and appropriate reforestation.

Building on each our respective community, creative and research practices relative to « Home » and « House » – especially on the conditions of dwelling and coexistence in a contemporary context of displacement since WWII and the subsequent cycles of violence and (post)colonialisms – this session will address the cultural construction of « Home » which requires and leads to the destruction of « House ».

In keeping with the Brown Creeper’s teachings & skills and expanding on Porteous and Smith’s definition of domicide – leading towards Deguy’s notion of geocide – participants will be welcomed to explore and share their experiences of beauty and displacement. What are the knowledges, skills and perceptions related to the symbolic capacity associated with our human ways of inhabiting that we still have access to – and sometimes share with other non-human animals – (or what Françoise Choay would call the anthropogenetic spacialization function)? How do we individually and collectively practice pulling back from the edge given that we seem to be a civilization addicted to, and compelled by, destruction?

This performance lecture and storytelling workshop proposes that beauty is on the fracture line between « Making Home » and « Destroying House », thus inviting the possibility to practice and inhabit the disquiet space of ethics.

Louise Lachapelle and Devora Neumark Summary, Making Home, Destroying House: Beauty and the Disquiet Space of Ethics