See Artist Swoon’s New Project, The House Our Families Built

The house built by our families.
Photo: Caledonia Curry / Swoon Studio

During the pandemic, artist Caledonia Curry – better known as Swoon – went back and read almost 20 years of his newspapers. “I found out that I had a recurring dream about this house and that there was a performance going on there,” she says. “And my friend wrote the show and we were working together.”

Caledonian curry.
Photo: Sarah St. Amand / Swoon Studio

This dream became the basis of this project, “The house built by our families. Last January, PBS launched a national storytelling project, American portrait, inspired by the revolutionary MoMA exhibition of 1955, “Man’s family. The PBS Project, carried out in partnership with RadicalMedia, was designed to provide a platform for people from across the country to share their stories and how the past is manifested in our present, in first-person narratives. It has collected over 13,000 stories to date, and they show the commonalities of American life, despite our recent public divisions. With that in mind, James Spindler, Creative Director of RadicalMedia, asked Kim Hastreiter to manage and chose three artists who came up with works that reflected the very personal nature of the project.

Curry is one of them. Inspired in part by this recurring dream, she created an installation on a tanker truck that strategically opens to a fantastic setting, while her friend and collaborator, director Jeff Stark, chose actors to recite portions. of different stories featured in the PBS collection. stories inside the house type sculpture.

Curry started out as a street artist and went on to make installations including the ‘Swimming Cities of Serenissima’, a series of handmade rafts that made a surprised watery appearance during the Venice Biennale 2009, and the Konbit shelter project in Haiti in response to the devastation after the earthquake the following year.

I spoke with Curry as she put the finishing touches on her truck.

It seems so prescient considering what we have been through during this recently ended Presidency in general, but especially during its terrible last week. We are so divided as a country, talking about each other.
If we can create spaces for people to have these difficult conversations, that’s one of the goals of the play for me … One of the themes that I hold dear is owning your heritage and to choose which things to give up, and I have very much thought about our nation’s white supremacist legacy and my own ancestral white supremacist heritage because my family stretches back many, many generations in the world. South, so I personally had the experience of being like, “Oh, this is my specific story, this is not something abstract, this is something that I have to own in my family and take the decision to evolve beyond what I have inherited. And then look at what happened on Capitol Hill, like wow, we all have to do that.

Photo: Sarah St. Amand / Swoon Studio

What is it made of?
So it’s a tanker truck and we strategically cut it to open up and look like a house, and we added wood, built a staircase, brought in furniture, turned it into this rather fantastic sculpture.

So it opens onto the bedrooms?
Almost no rooms, I would say. [Laughs.] It opens up into many different aspects, I called them more as ecosystems and unfortunately the public cannot enter the house; too dangerous during COVID. On one side you have the couch and you have the kitchen and there is a cutting board and some pots and there is this painting of a mother and there is a child on the couch and there are these things happening and here there is a balcony and it’s outside and there are these stairs and people are playing chess, but it looks like church windows and is anyone going to preach from here? It is therefore a bit like the language of architecture which transforms itself into these small ecosystems but never resolves or is never completely undone. The actors deliver lines of American Portrait and so it’s not a direct story, it’s more of a montage, but they will interact… one of the actors will be able to go up on the roof. But there is no one-to-one relationship between architecture and stories.

Photo: Steffie van Rhee / RadicalMedia

Photo: Sarah St. Amand / Swoon Studio.

Photo: Sarah St. Amand / Swoon Studio.

Where do you get the furniture?
Some part that we built and some of the furniture that we got from the second hand stores … there is a mix of things, we brought toys that exist, there are going to be portraits that are painted during the sculpture day, which is the day off when it’s just a sculpture for a day and then it’s a live performance, so it’s a bit of a mix. It’s still a pretty fantastic sculpture but it’s much more focused on the language of the house which sometimes involved going down to Build it green! and buy moldings, rocking chairs and things like that.

Was the house designed to evoke a particular vernacular?
I would say between the cracker house and the Victorian house, that was the starting point. Another place that had a huge impact on me was the Alhambra in Spain, with the kind of patterned walls all over the place, so there’s a lot of wallpaper in the house, you’ll see, so I think it’s a bit all victorian in style, those huge, all-pattern patterned wallpapers that are in a lot of these beautiful sacred spaces, because i’m really drawn to the decor and the details … so there are a few different languages.

Photo: Steffie van Rhee / RadicalMedia

How did you design the wallpaper?
I start with paper cuts so that you see a repeating pattern, and then arrange them so that they can be translated into wallpaper.

It’s a house but also something that comes out of your subconscious it seems …
There’s also a precedent in my work for thinking of the home as a kind of metaphor for the psyche and going into relationships and family, so it was kind of a natural reaction, especially once we were in this question of the American portrait, these very intimate images, stories that people tell.

The installation will take place at various locations around New York:
Brooklyn Bridge Park Pier 1, January 30-31.
Prospect Park Wilnick Plaza, February 6-7.
Flushing Meadows Corona Park, February 13-14.
Union Square 17th Street, February 21.

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