Sunday, May 18, 2008

I Dwell, You Dwell: Megan Lavelle, Magnolia Laurie

Megan Lavelle is asking friends, acquaintances, near strangers to live in her home. She isn't asking them as guests—these painters, sculptors, thinkers—but as residents, people who will live in her Charles Village studio for the weekend while she's away at her mother's. These residents will sleep in her bed, handle her most personal objects, rearrange the furniture, and, through art and contemplation, transform her apartment into something new, and possibly strange. At the heart of the matter, Megan wants to know, How do we live, how do we dwell? How do you? How does she?

We live our lives in patterns, arranging them amidst the objects and movements we make in our houses. "I was thinking about how my life compares with my mother's," Megan says, "How completely opposite we are. She's so neat, the kind to vacuum right out the door. And I was wondering, how do we develop these habits, where do they come from?"

At the center of How We Dwell, the name of Megan's 3-month-long project, is conversation, the inward conversation Megan has with her mother, about their different lives, and the conversations the artists who take up occupancy in her studio have with her. The first of these artists, painter and sculptor Magnolia Laurie, spent a weekend at Megan's, reading the philosopher Heidegger, writing on an old portable typewriter, handling Megan's things, and building sculptures from colored drinking straws. "What is the creative process of living alone?" Magnolia wants to know. "That mindless sort of action, I thought it would be interesting to observe." In her attempt to make those actions explicit, Magnolia began rearranging the collections of things Megan has put together over the years, creating an object "shrine" of sorts—photographs, knickknacks, mementos. Megan's life, as mapped by these things, was reordered, enhanced, through the screen of Magnolia's perceptions.

How do you make a life? Magnolia wonders, and through her objects, her home, Megan responds. One wonders though, in such an intimate setting, such a close dialogue as was had between the two artists, what is the nature of this conversation? What are its dynamics, its questions of power and exchange?
As part of her residency, Magnolia also sculpted. Her arrangements of drinking straws linked end to end formed webs in the corners of Megan's apartment, connected walls and ceilings in airy spans, grew up and around the computer table, through the tangles of electrical cords, like growing ivy. "The straws," says Magnolia, "were a physical representation of the process of my thinking about being in Megan's space that, unlike my rearrangements of her personal objects, which only she would probably notice, would be visible to others."

Building the straw sculptures became, for Magnolia, a track of her ideas, an asking of the questions, how do we build a life, how does my life and Megan's connect? In most of these arrangements we see a clear give and take, the sculptural vines meshed harmoniously with the other woman's living space, complementing and magnifying it. In some though, and one in particular—a net of straws spreading out over a chair, making it unusable—we might wonder not so much how do their lives interact, but how has Magnolia's presence changed Megan's life? How has it made it over?

As Megan writes in the How We Dwell blog, "Magnolia builds a fiasco – a constructed fiasco – with Heidegger and 225 flexible straws. From the moment of entry she has sorted through my chaotic order with grace. Small, quiet, beautiful arrangements have been collected in place of clutter." Megan has accepted Magnolia's changes with magnanimity and poise. And Magnolia, for her part, was, as she says, "a polite presence," her goal not to impede Megan's life but to observe and move with it. We can wonder though, whether over the next 3 months the experiences Megan will have with her other residents will be so harmonious.

"It'll be interesting to see how these other people, some who I don't know that well, will interpret my life," Megan says. "In the time off between installations, I wonder how my habits will reassert themselves?" It's a tall order to ask oneself these questions over and again, putting yourself to the microscope of other people's investigations, giving your home over to the habits of others. In the end though, we might recognize that even the most solitary of people dwell in the homes of all of us strangers.


Blogger Pedro Nunes said...

Excellent Blog...glad I found a new source for checking out what's new and hot in the Arts...Thanks for writing good content!!!

4:10 PM  
Blogger Joseph Young said...

thanks for the note, manuel. the first from portugal! your blog looks cool too. will check it out more thoroughly soon.

7:40 AM  

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