A quote from filmmaker Larry Jordan about Jess and Robert Duncan’s home in San Francisco in the 1950’s:
Jess was deciding that he would like to build a home and maintain a home and have the magic, the protection of a home. And he taught me a great deal of my life style out of that – what the meaning of a home is. it’s a whole lot more than bourgeois values, it’s a magical kingdom and it needs to be protected from the wayward vibrations that come and go. So there were rules about who could come and it was very civilized: it was not the usual American flop pad at all. They abhorred pads, sleeping on the floor on mattresses. And that taught me a great deal about being civilized…
This is included in Rebecca Solnit’s book Secret Exhibition, Six California Artists of the Cold War Era. When I read it, something fell into place; I grew up in Manhattan, in a series of apartments, and the idea of owning a house has never held much meaning for me. As I’ve gone on with my life, most of my environments have been treated like ever larger versions of my teenage room: the place where I can put up what ever I want and my parents can’t say anything, the place that I clean only when I’m forced to do chores, the place that’ll eventually move out of anyway. I realize how often I’ve made decorating decisions based on a supposed effect for someone else, how much it’s been about display. The idea that I clean, not for the pleasure of working or of having clean things, but out of embarrassment about someone else seeing it.
What moves me in the passage above is the notion of home making as a craft toward an end, an end that is inner rather than outer. That a home is a place where certain unique kinds of things and feelings can happen, as opposed a space that people move through. That you could craft your home to produce those feelings, those results. I spoke a while back about the different attitude I take toward the art I own as opposed to other sorts of objects: because the art is so visibly the result of someone’s (in my case usually a friend’s) effort and thought, I’m a much more careful custodian of it than I am with other things. I’d like to have that relationship all of the things I have, to have respect for what they represent and what their possibilities are. I see that in the way bad_faggot treats boot blacking. It’s one kind of power to make something; as an artist it’s a power I’m well acquainted with. There’s another kind of power in maintaining something. That power I’ve never really explored or bothered with. The quote above makes me think that it might be time
I’ve had mice in my current apartment of and on since I moved in, and tried various ways of dealing with them, including glue traps which are easily the most horrific. A while back I was reading some book on Zen and the abbot of a monastery was asked about the problem of how to deal with mice in the home. He said that if a home was properly maintained, the mice would leave, since there would be nothing for them to feed on. At times the mice in my apartment have made me start at every little movement in my peripheral vision. I hope that one of the things I’ll be able to do is make a place, a home where I can actually welcome people, and and not be fretting about all the lose ends of my life, gnawed by mice.