I am a rad fem activist, anarchic dyke, mother, International Hoover Artist, zine maker, low impact shack dweller and this is Shack Diary. How life relates to politics, art, kitsch and other random stuff……adding more garbled white noise to the age of the ‘selfie’.
In the early 2000’s I had two art exhibitions based around the concept of ‘home’.
I’ve always been fascinated with this idea and its links to a long established female creative tradition. ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’, ‘The Belle Jar’ ,’The Dinner Party’……. ‘Home’ is a loaded term for women. It carries with it emotional, political, economic and cultural baggage. It has been used to justify the imprisonment of white western middle/upper class women, while poorer women have fought with cunning, courage and sacrifice to keep a roof over their families’ heads. The concept of ‘home’ is also a matter of geography, of political status, of belonging, of borders and barriers. Its a matter of hate speech…racists/bigots claim ‘home’ as theirs while calling for many to ‘Go Home’. Indigenous cultures have their homes…homelands…rights…..lives…. stolen from them.
Home is a paradox, safe and dangerous.
For women killed in domestic violence at more than 2 per week in the UK and many more suffering severe abuse, control issues and so on, the idea of home has a particularly horrific meaning. Home is a place where abuse-psychological, sexual, physical- is at its most common.
Women’s connection to the private realm also relates to ideals of capitalism and the economic control of women. Home is defined as a ‘woman’s place’ (not space) and women must ‘know their place’. Wife, housewife, mother, carer, cleaner…..’home -maker’ is a gendered term. It’s associated with certain gendered values…..yet in reality is given little worth or value. Patriarchy has even stolen the word ‘goddesses’ by putting ‘domestic’ in front of it!!
My own experience of home is also something I wanted to explore. I’ve lived in many different places, all of which conjurer up certain meaning for me. I was also homeless for a year, sleeping on friends floors.I now live (most of the time), happily in a beautiful little wooden shack near the North Pennines.
I’m not an artist. I’m what BBC Radio 4 might call ‘an outsider artist’. (I like this). I didn’t go to art college as planned but gave birth to my son, which changed my whole direction in life. I had no money or childcare when he was born so had little choice on university-then. But I’ve always been a creative person and so when, much later, the opportunity arose to apply for an art exhibition I took it.
My application was (surprisingly) successful.
My first exhibition was called ‘International Hoover Art‘.
The title is a piss take obviously. There is no glamour in picking up shit, whether in private or in public. As a woman, a carer, a mother, chores are endless, thankless, tedious and soul destroying and no there’s no wages for housework. I’ve also been a cleaner and your human status ceases to exist economically, socially…..people really do act as if you’re not there….
For the exhibition I decorated 6 old style upright vacuum cleaners. One for example was covered in Love Heart sweets, to emphasis the bullshit, patronising romanticizing of domestic drudgery sold to women. The advertising industry has a specific term/formula when producing an advert to sell women cleaning products. They call it ‘2ck’ or ‘Two Cunts in a Kitchen’…… (I call it….. Patriarchy+Capitalism=Pricks……).
Another vacuum cleaner was covered in fridge magnet letters with words connecting to the word ‘domestic…..’ including ‘Bliss’ and ‘Violence’. Domesticity is sold to us as a dreamlike state when it can be, in reality, an absolute nightmare. Highlighting opposing viewpoints, revealing falsehoods and hidden truths, what really lies behind our fences , our walls, our curtains….by disguising a household appliance.
I’m not an artist. I didn’t go to the parties associated with the exhibition. I don’t know the language of art and artists, or want to (or even know how to) network.
I wanted to create something that was accessible, political, humorous, serious, irreverent….to make people smile and think hopefully. And judging by the comments book it did. (Of course, one man added an inevitable irrelevant sexist comment, so me and a friend hunted him down. He was in the town square outside stroking a stray cat….so we shouted ‘NICE PUSSY!’ at him and laughed…..He went red).
My second exhibition the next year was called ‘Home‘.