Day in Day Out, 1999. Glass, light, gel, card, timers and cells. 120cm tall, 30cm x 40cm wide
A small glass house stands in isolation on a cardboard plinth. Periodically it appears to light up spontaneously from inside. lt is at once doll’s house, greenhouse, and skyscraper. The viewer is both seduced and frustrated by this tiny jewel-like building. For there is no point of entry. It is sealed; both void and vacuum. instinctively we move up closer and peer in, triggering the light by our proximity. The walls dissolve into an infinite regression and intuitively we realise that we have come up against what the French poet Paul Eluard called in his poem Les Yeux Ferti/es, “The solemn geographies of human limits”.
Outside and inside form a dialectical division. This geometry has what Gaston Bachelard calls “the sharpness of the dialectics of yes and no,” and touches on the fundamental issues of being and non-being. Bachelard observes that the “coexistence of things in a space to which we add consciousness of our existence is a very concrete thing.” Implicit in this analysis is the image of the body as physical membrane, which on the outside connects us to a phenomenological existence, whilst on the inside forms an intimate place determined by our psychic reality.
The house is a highly evocative image. As the poet Milosz suggests, it unites the maternal and the spatial. Like the womb it is a place of safety and refuge -for it is a space that is not outside. As Bachelard claims: “Come what may, the house helps us to say: l will be an inhabitant of the world, in spite of the world.” Despite its architectural solidity, the house is a site of daydreams, of intimacy, warmth and memory. lt is both armour and heartbeat, fortification and nest.
Flooded in ambient light, Richman’s iconic form becomes an object onto which to project our unobtainable desires. For it invites yet denies access. lnculcated with the virtues of protection from actual and psychological storms, the house acquires the physical and moral energy of the protective maternal body. ln so doing it denotes the utopia to which we long to return, the prelinguistic space from which we are cast into the world. Thus Richman’s work exemplifies in its physical presence both the Platonic notion of chora as an ambiguous space between eternal idea and material copy, a space in which all meaning is possible, a space of “becoming”, as well as Kristeva’s use of the term as a “feminine” or maternal space.
Content and Texts © Sue Hubbard 1999
Image © Martin Richman 1999