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Christine Finn | RA


an exploration of the idea of 'home'

In 2007, I turned my family home in Deal, Kent, on the south-east coast of England, into an art installation. All of it, every room and cupboard, even as I continued to live there. It was open to the public for 10 days as an event for Architecture Week, the RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) celebration of buildings and their stories. As an archaeologist and journalist, the semi-detached house where I grew up provided me with a tantalising challenge - how could I make this suburban seaside home a mnemonic for change over time? The answer was to approach it as an artwork, using soundscapes, video, photography, and sculpture.

The trigger for this project was the death of both my parents within a year. The house was my 35 years, although I left it in the late 1970's and did not ever think I would like there again. Now I had to decide - leave home or stay? As property developers hovered (it was still boom time in the UK) I began a process of 'excavation' which was articulated through various media, beginning with "Leaving Home" a BBC radio 3 programme, in which I walked around the house as my mother had left it, the rooms and objects . revealing their stories. This audio was couple with images which I'd taken on my cellphone simply as as record of the house as it began to be transformed with the clearing and storing on objects. This suggested that I should stay for a while, and revive the house as an artwork, while continuing to live in it. I had no intention to restore the house, simply to accentuate its changes over the century, including what would be regarded by purists as ''disastrous' removal of late 19th fireplaces and staircase, the paneling over of doors, polystyrene ceiling tiles, and a pebble-dashed exterior. Instead of seeing this 1960s DIY projects as blights on the house, I celebrated the work involved in these changes; the new for the old in modernising times.

So, Leave-Home-Stay presented number 58 Golf Road in all its forms. Flying ducks wallpaper in the bathroom... a living room floor excavated down to the bare earth... broadband connection next to Edwardian moulding...garden sculptures inspired by the sea-flood which swept through the house 30 years ago, traces still visible today. "Leaving Home" played in an upstairs bedroom, the images non-synched with the audio in a deliberate evocation of memory, with its flickerings, repetition and uncertainties. On my mother's last television I played a 3 minute-long digitalstory, made as part of the BBC's "Who do you think you are?" project. It sets up the context of the house as being purchased with the proceeds of our former home in Jersey, Channel Islands. This house was saved by my grandmother during the German Occupation of 1940 to 1945.

The project's revelling in changes over time, the anomalies and anachronisms, sparked visitors' memories in a mixture of curiosity and nostalgia. My own emotional journey was made explicit through this excavation of home, and investigation of art: I got to know my parents better, and 'leaving' is made more possible.

Leave-Home-Stay continued in a smaller way this year; Mantel Pieces, also for RIBA and supported by Arts Council England. It was based on my parents' last mantel piece array, which I photographed before, with fondness, taking it apart.


A series of Guardian artsblogs about Leave-Home-Stay start here

The project also has a home at Stanford's Humanities Lab, which will be updated shortly.


Christine Finn is a journalist and creative archaeologist. She is currently an Hon. Research and Writer Fellow at the University of Bradford, UK. Her 1999 doctorate at Oxford explored how archaeology inspired the arts, notably the poetry of WB Yeats and Seamus Heaney (Past Poetic, Duckworth, 2004). She has co-edited two books on archaeology and the arts (Outside Archaeology, BAR, 2001, and Ancient Muses, U of Alabama, 2003) and in 2004 she directed and curated "Strange Powers" a celebration of the art and science of Heaney and Iron Age bog bodies at the University of Bradford, the film of which was selected for the 2005 Archaeology Film Festival in Rovereto, Italy. She curated an exhibit about Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth and Jacquetta Hawkes at the library of Henry Moore Institute, Leeds, and her own film and sculpture has been exhibited in London and California, including two collaborations "Sonya's Office" www.geocities.com/sonyasoffice, 'Memoire Collective" www.geocities.com/memoirecollective, in the crypt of St.Pancras Church in London, and made a site specific work for the 2007 Vintage Computer Festival in Silicon Valley http://blogs.guardian.co.uk/art/2007/11/

In 2005, Finn was Visiting Professor of Art at Oberlin, Ohio. As an artist, she has received one collaborative, and two individual, Arts Council England awards. She is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London, and a former Reuter Journalist Fellow at Oxford. She presents for BBC Radio 3, and is part of the BBC TV's Digitalstorytelling project. As a freelance journalist, she contributes to the Guardian, the Sunday Times, and wired.com. Her writing has also appeared in New Scientist, Edge, Ready Made, the V and A magazine and the Slow Food Journal. She is the author of 'Artifacts: an archaeologist's year in Silicon Valley (MIT Press, 2001) and the authorised biographer of the archaeologist, and arts enthusiast, Jacquetta Hawkes. An abridged version of the biography is online at Stanford's Humanities Lab http://humanitieslab.stanford.edu/ChristineFinn/home



































































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Deartha ag iArchitectures (2008).