G.3 Domestic Pluralities, Part 1

Sat Oct 23 / 9:00 – 10:30 PDT
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chairs /

  • Erin J. Campbell, University of Victoria
  • Olivier Vallerand, Université de Montréal

A recent special issue of the journal Home Cultures devoted to alternative domesticities concluded by asking for more research on domestic pluralities. In answering that call to action, we seek papers and accounts of artistic or curatorial practice that rethink the domestic normative by considering the intersectional, the transitional, and the in-between. Deploying such lenses as sexuality, race, ethnicity, and colonialism, this panel seeks to destabilize dominant views and narrow perspectives by exploring multiple experiences of the home. We ask: how does the design and materiality of the home mediate power relationships, kinship, friendship, intimacy, sexuality, and identity formation? Topics to explore could include: the LGBTQ home; the home and colonization; homelessness and housing insecurity; migration, displacement, and temporary homes such as tent cities and refugee camps; nature cultures such as pets, pests, and gardens; placemaking.

Erin J. Campbell is a Professor of Early Modern European Art in the Department of Art History and Visual Studies, University of Victoria. Her research focuses on the Early Modern domestic interior. Her publications appear in journals and essay collections, including the Journal of Art Historiography, Sixteenth Century Journal, Word & Image, Renaissance Quarterly, The Cultural Aesthetics of Eighteenth-Century Porcelain, To Have and To Hold: Marriage in Premodern Europe 1200–1700, Design and Agency: Critical Perspectives on Identities, Histories, Practices, and RACAR. Most recently, she was co-editor and contributing author of The Early Modern Italian Domestic Interior: People, Objects, Domesticities (Ashgate, 2013), co-editor of A Cultural History of Furniture, v. II, The Middle Ages and Renaissance, 500–1500 (forthcoming), and author of Old Women and Art in the Early Modern Italian Domestic Interior (Ashgate, 2015). Her current SSHRC-supported project is "Art and the Stages of Life in the Early Modern Italian Domestic Interior."

Olivier Vallerand is a community activist, architect, historian, and assistant professor at the École de design, Université de Montréal. His research focuses on self-identifications and their relation to the built environment, on queer and feminist approaches to design education, and on alternative practices of design. His monograph Unplanned Visitors: Queering the Ethics and Aesthetics of Domestic Space (2020) discusses the emergence of queer theory in architectural discourse. His research has been published in the Journal of Architectural Education, Interiors: Design | Architecture | Culture, Inter art actuel, The Educational Forum, The Plan, Captures, and in the edited volumes Sexuality (Whitechapel Documents of Contemporary Art), Making Men, Making History: Canadian Masculinities across Time and Place, and Contentious Cities: Design and the Gendered Production of Space. He also regularly writes for Canadian Architect and was co-editor with Erin J. Campbell of a special issue of RACAR about new perspectives on the domestic interior.

G.3.1 The Early Modern Dutch Dollhouse as a Site of Knowledge-Making

Michelle Moseley-Christian, Virginia Tech

The seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were a watershed in which the Dutch household was formally recognized as a defined space that merited attention in guide books, presaged by early cookbooks as harbingers of this genre. A rise in texts aimed at the functional and aesthetic aspects of the domestic realm, starting with cookbooks, speaks to an emerging view of the home as a realm in need of a distinct set of rules and guidelines in order to appropriately manage it. Texts on housekeeping were, like conduct books, in line with class and religious expectations in the early modern Netherlands. Indeed, the rise of housekeeping texts amounts to a new variety of conduct books aimed simultaneously at home with a focus on the women in it. This study offers a deeper analysis of the collection, materiality, and display of seventeenth-and-eighteenth-century Dutch dollhouses through the prism of household management texts. The dollhouses themselves were lavish miniature households made of luxury materials, kept in cabinets that were bought, owned, and displayed by middle-class women in Dutch households. I argue that the early modern Dutch dollhouse was part of larger epistemic networks in which these collections constituted a form of sophisticated knowledge-making by women akin to, and informed by, household management, cookery, and conduct texts. With the exception of a few women, such as Agneta Block and Maria Sibylla Merian, women have been shut out of the study of early modern Netherlandish knowledge networks at this time. Contrary to this, dollhouses suggest that it is not women who are lacking in terms of engagement with wider information systems; rather, by widening an understanding of scholarly approaches to knowledge production, the participation and contributions of women in this area come into clearer focus.

Michelle Moseley-Christian is an Associate Professor of Art History in the School of Visual Arts at Virginia Tech, where she serves as chair of the Art History program and co-Director of the MA Program in Material Culture and Public Humanities. Her current research focuses on female collectors and collections from the seventeenth and eighteenth-century Early Modern Netherlands, supported by fellowships at the Scaliger Institute at Leiden University and an RSA Kress-Bodleian Library Fellowship at the University of Oxford. Some recent publications include a volume of co-edited essays: Gender, Difference and Otherness in Medieval and Early Modern Visual Culture with Palgrave Press, and a forthcoming essay with Routledge Press on early modern print culture. Material from her presentation is part of a book-length manuscript in progress under contract with Amsterdam University Press.

G.3.2 Living Arrangements: Omega Flowers and Bloomsbury's Expansive Domesticities

Alison Syme, University of Toronto

Christopher Reed's foundational work on Bloomsbury's "domestic modernism" established the group's interiors as intimately connected to their political resistance and alternative modes of living. Many aspects of Bloomsbury rooms, including the furnishings produced by the Omega Workshops — the Post-Impressionist home decoration firm set up by Roger Fry, Vanessa Bell, and Duncan Grant in 1913 — have received scholarly commentary, some of it focused on the artists' and clients' negotiation of sex and gender norms. Little attention, however, has been paid to the artificial flowers that Bell and others produced for the Omega. Radically simplified and inventive compared to Victorian precedents focused on verisimilitude, these blossoms blurred the line between painting, sculpture, and handicraft. No examples appear to have survived, but they are represented in identifiable domestic settings in numerous works by Bell, Grant, and Fry that reveal the flowers were created in a great variety of shapes and palettes, and were valued emblems of the artists' new interior design. In this paper, I argue that the Omega flowers were particularly effective catalysts for place-making and -imagining. Through their suggestive forms and novel arrangements, the Bloomsbury artists negotiated the legacies of Victorian domesticity and empire to fashion new ontological and emotive possibilities. By closely analyzing several works in which the flowers allude to and seemingly materialize diverse histories, elements, and geographies, I suggest that the bouquets created shifting terrains in which inherited hierarchies and clear distinctions between interior and exterior become undone, enabling more inclusive lived and imaginary relations.

Alison Syme is an Associate Professor of Modern Art at the University of Toronto Mississauga. She is the author of A Touch of Blossom: John Singer Sargent and the Queer Flora of Fin-de-Siècle Art (Penn State UP, 2010) and Willow (Reaktion, 2014).

G.3.3 Sensitive Design: Robert de Montesquiou's Sensorial Interiors and its Stigmatisation

Benoit Beaulieu, Concordia University

"So sensitive is his soul that a pale green melody will make him swoon with emotion; the touch of a velvet-leafed flower will send him into ecstasies. He must be attuned with vague perfumes, with harmonies of colors." It is in these words that the French count Robert de Montesquiou (1855–1921) was described in the newspaper North American Philadelphia. This citation highlights the distinctive aspect of the critiques against de Montesquiou, the focus on his hypersensitivity nearing the disease. To better understand the intersection of sensitivity and decadence in the condemnation of queerness, this presentation will focus on de Montesquiou's first interiors as it made him (in)famous.

The queer interior developed by de Montesquiou is explored through its stigmatization that took the form of the pathologization of hypersensitivity. Understood as a liminal space, de Montesquiou's apartment was at the margin of the familial home, in its attic. Locus of his identity formation, the apartment was a site of escapism and inspiration. The solicitation of the senses elevated the interior decoration and offered an alternative way of living, of inhabiting the domestic space. A variety of pictures of de Montesquiou's interiors will illustrate the presentation and will be combined with citations from newspapers and medical treatises. The presentation sheds light on an alternative form of modernism, one that is sensual, ornamental, queer. As a strategy of legitimation, de Montesquiou developed an original idea of the interior as therapeutic. Through this specific case study, this presentation aims to offer a better understanding of the role the senses played in the condemnation of queer lifestyles, as well as offering a recognition of queer agency and strategies of affirmation.

Benoit Beaulieu is currently a PhD candidate in the Interuniversity Doctoral Program in Art History at Concordia University. After receiving his BA in Art History from UQAM, he completed his MA in Art History at the Université Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne. He is the recipient of a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Doctoral Fellowship, a Fonds de Rercherche du Québec–Société et Culture Doctoral Fellowship and a Concordia University Graduate Fellowship. His doctoral research focuses on the performance of the self of French dandy Robert de Montesquiou in his interiors and the topics of gender and sexuality during the end of the 19th century in the European visual cultures.