Helen Mathwin and Susie Elliott developed, curated, participated in and managed The Handmade House, a three day multi-location show presented as part of Craft Victoria’s Craft Cubed 2017. In various locations within Melbourne’s CBD the artists manually crafted a house frame from rudimentary materials in three two hour time slots. This process was linked via live streaming to another three artists in downtown Castlemaine. These artists responded simultaneously with 3D printing, development and installation of small, digitally manufactured houses in the Wide Open Road Art cabinets.
The different house installations were made with the artists in conversation across geographic distance and time lapses, and produced some striking work.
Our city artists, Helen Mathwin, Jaxon Waterhouse, Elizabeth West and Susie Elliott, had only crude materials like wood, screws, wool and clay, and needed to find innovative ways to move their growing house structure to the three city locations over the three days. They were also beset by damage to the house in this process, including the smashing of its clay windows.
We also had to keep live streaming and video comms going so our artists in Castlemaine had a sense of what we were up to. Overall, this manual side of the show was slow, cobbled-together and constrained by the limitations of materials, process and transportability.
Up in Castlemaine, artists CiPi, Kate Meade and Mark Richardson had smaller bio-plastic houses that were 3D-printed from a digital file that they could install and modify how they saw fit in each of their window boxes. House production here, while certainly faster, was not as rapid as we initially expected, and continually modifying the file to reflect the CBD house slowed the process down substantially.
Community engagement was high with both city and country shows, with many passers-by stopping to question to work, make suggestions on how to add to it, or to discuss the inexhaustible topic of housing in Australia at the moment.
Throughout the work, themes regarding the double-edged nature of the house emerged; of nostalgia, the home as a sacred, golden place, but also of its flimsiness, transience, and even limiting nature. In Mark Richardson’s tower, the extremes of status and power that are now a fact of city and even some regional house markets are also invoked.
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