Here is a preview on Windowless (working title), an ongoing project I’m working on.
The irony doesn’t escape me comparing this set of windowless photos with the earlier windows series. But in some ways they are connected.
As you may know I’m preoccupied with dealing with the suburbs. I don’t live here easily and yet I’ve been here for almost 15 years.
The idea initially started with exploring areas of the suburbs that people don’t look at.
The suburbs are not particularly interesting in the way the city or countryside is. Suburban life has a functional focus and you tend to concentrate on where you’ve got to go or what you have to get. Schools, soccer games, shopping, work. We don’t see the ugliness of the suburban sprawl after awhile. We are lulled into a kind of complacency by the repetitive nature of the neighbourhood design. Collectively we want this – it’s one less thing to deal with in our activity saturated lives.
In addition there is a kind of collective agreement of looking/looking away that we all employ which touches on the themes of my windows series. Nothing has to be beautiful. It has to be functional.
My work on this project started with shots that I had been taking of the space between houses. Sometime you get glimpses of the private space and private worlds of the back yard. But sometimes you’ll see other houses or trees. When my partner and I were on a walk once we were surprised to see an apartment building in the background we’d never noticed before.
As the idea developed I become interested in the sides or backs of houses because we don’t tend to really look at these in our environments. Once I had a few of the images together I was struck by the impression of an odd kind of blindness the collection has on the viewer. Like someone is holding up a hand so we don’t get a good look at their face. The buildings started to take on a different kind of character. A different kind of function.
From a very early age we are accustomed to envisioning houses and buildings with doors and windows. Look at any child’s rudimentary drawing and it becomes clear on how we envision the archetype of homes: structure, door, windows.
These “portals” represent our connections with society. But in some ways they also act as a kind of salve to our frustrated desire to know everything about others.
Privacy is an agreement. You will have windows I can look in but we’ll all agree not to do that. You’ll have a door I can knock on and the agreement is that that I can walk right up to your house and do that. But it’s the only time I’m really allowed on your property if I’m not invited.
We also agree that if I knock or ring the bell you’ll answer open the door. But I’ll also agree only to do that when necessary (perhaps why marketers, pollsters and door-to-door salespeople are so darned annoying). I can’t just do it to see what your up to.
In reality buildings represent shelter and protection from others. They are places we hide. They are places we retreat to to become our truest versions of ourselves (we hope). They are where we are vulnerable. We put up curtains to keep prying eyes out and let light in. But who hasn’t gone for a night time walk and played the voyeur by looking in on people who have forgotten how visible they are stealing glimpses of lives and habitats so different than ours?
Seeing houses and buildings in this way: with out obvious windows or doors stirs up this awareness. I hope that it will lead the viewer to see our world a little differently. I hope that it leads the viewer to think about the fine lines between our public and private lives and what we think we have the right to know and see.