NOTES ON MINI-REZ
October 29, 2019
I arrived yesterday after lunch, and met Sandra to get the details for the thermostat, the pilot light for oven, and parking. Unloaded my stuff and went to swim and run errands. I got back around 4:30, and spent the afternoon cooking, unpacking, and wandering through the house. An old friend of mine lives nearby so I invited her over for a glass of wine. The process of "the insecurity of dislocation" that I rely upon to feel the nature of the place is a bit compromised due to the fact that we are in Austin, and I've been here before. So I'm thinking that having friends over and talking about the project will be interesting - and it was!
Veronica is an interior designer currently working on her MBA, with a very keen eye and interest in The House in Good Taste. When she arrived we immediately went straight to the kitchen, to get situated, pour a glass, and catch up. I asked her to imagine that two things were different; that the three bikes were not crowding the entry foyer, and that she follow the "public" traffic flow pattern that I have always taken during events. So we went back to the foyer and started the tour. We sat in the living room and each took a couch, which reinforces my instinct that nobody wants to sit in those wooden sculptures. The distance between the two couches is 7 ft, which means the distance between the two faces approx 11 ft. This is a bit awkward of a distance to have a chat with a close friend whilst sipping a glass of wine. Not bad, just a bit awkward. Veronica said something about the furniture arrangement as "classic early 80's Elle Decor.. Minimalism was just taking hold, and the corporate aesthetic of Wall Street begins to influence shelter mags.” We talked a little bit about other types of couches, coffee tables, and comfy chair layouts. I have an idea for a long couch placed just opposite the fireplace, with an armchair at each side, and a smaller wooden coffee table. can you signal restrained institutional elegance and provide a comfy warmth simultaneously?
as i’m writing this its a cold and rainy day here on the first morning of my mini-rez, and its about 10am. ive had my first cup of coffee, and not wanting to get out in this weather, i'd like to have another cup and find a comfy sofa next to a southern exposure and cuddle up with a book. there is no place for that. you want to have several different ways of sitting, and lounging, without laying in the bed during the day.
there are nice barstools, and a very comfortable wooden butcher block island where i am writing this. there are also formal dining room chairs at a large boardroom-type table in the dining area. still it is an OK place to move to and read a large book, or work on the computer.
again i go back to critique the front room, or drawing room as Elsie would call it. the sofa's are not for slumping down. there are no throw pillows if you want to lay your head on the armrest. they are not next to the windows so the light is compromised. we need a place to be lazy! to pass the time not working, not walking, and not sleeping…
Patsy arrived this morning about 9:30 and is doing some cleaning, and laundry. Im still sitting in the kitchen and the washing machine just went to spin cycle which makes the kitchen sing! glasses are clinking together making a lovely high pitched ding. A metal handle is rattling against the drum of a trash can in a rapid syncopated rhythm. and the hum of the washing machine's low rumble is underneath. it stops and now its the soft whir of air moving about the sub-zero, with the comforting sound of splashing water as cars drive by 34th street to the north.
other sounds are wind blowing the oak tree leaves, birds chirping, and a soft office-style phone ring, that starts in the kitchen and repeats in a slight delay in Sue’s room. two guys are outside working on the landscape. weed wackers wacking, gas engines blowing, lawn mowers rumbling. its a very active house!!! and a very public place
“Welcome to my corporate boardroom.”
After that we moved into the dining room, and Veronica immediately went over to look at one of the works (the three stained boards). She was looking very close, and from different angles, maybe to see if there was an optical illusion. She came away seemingly unimpressed, then sat down catty-corner from me and took in the room. “Welcome to my corporate board room”, I said. I asked her about the art collection and she said it seemed cold. I pointed to other figurative work, but still...no. I pointed out the small Lawrence Weiner drawing and we talked about the meaning of the words vague, cryptic, and poetic.
So we made our way back into the kitchen and were comfortable again. We poured another glass and talked about the oven, kitchen triangles, and all of the nice appliances. The kitchen is a fun place to wander around and look at all the stuff. I sensed we could linger here too long, and thinking we might end up back in the kitchen, suggested that we continue the tour.
On the way upstairs she responded positively to the larger Lawrence Weiner posters. She stopped and looked closely. First room upstairs was Benjamin's library. It is a small warm room, with a million books and some personal photos of Benjamin and his family. We looked closely and talked about growing old, looking back at the less complicated times in our lives… she recalled a “1970’s oil- and-gas aesthetic”. Veronica had spent some time with relatives in Midland, TX and had fond memories of the oversized leather couches, brass and glass furnishings, and as they say in West Texas, “Oscar de la Renter”.
Next we went into the adjacent extra room that functions as a laundry room, and also houses tons of books. She sat down on the floor and pulled out Great Minds of Western Intellectual Tradition, a compendium of audio cassette tapes in several volumes. She was really excited, and even mentioned that her son, Frank, would love to listen. “I could use this library to home-school him!” We talked about making a podcast with them. I picked up a couple of laundry balls and thought about making a sculpture. They are really nice laundry balls and there were lots of them. Dirty white and all different sizes. I thought about David Hammons’ snow ball sale.
Then on to Jerri's room and Veronica was curious as to Jerri's Everlane shoe box. We talked about Texas French Bread, and Jerri's sons, one of which she knows from the restaurant. Then she looked into her rather empty closet hoping to find some ideas about her taste, and maybe some amazing vintage pieces. She asked about their other homes, curious if they had several. I didn’t know anything about them.
One idea is to
“open up” everything for viewers to experience the house as it functions as a
house, not an art gallery.
We peeked into the second floor offices, then finally made it to my bedroom where she laughed out loud and asked if I had staged my mess! “Unfortunately, no”, I replied. For the second time, she mentioned Benjamin's lighting style. The lights in my bathroom are pretty awesome, like a vanity for a theatre actress. Veronica is quite theatrical herself, and seemed to want to linger in front of the mirror as if preparing to step out onto the stage. The floor tile is pretty amazing, it’s a canary yellow square surrounded by a quadrant of pale pinks and diamonds of blush putty. The tub is also quite impressive. An inset porcelain with a deco curve. 1930’s? 40’s? who knows? There are hundreds more books and bookshelves in my room, and we both pulled one out and were silent for a moment. We noticed the archival boxes and talked about a lifetime of collecting, and the luxury of having assistants to get everything in order. As we were going back down the stairs she again commented on the Lawrence Weiner posters, and said "I really like these!"
We moved back into the kitchen and poured another glass, and again sat down at the island with the chrome barstools. No discussion necessary, as it was obvious that's where we would settle in for the rest of the evening. It’s the most comfortable place to socialize, even though the barstools are hard on the ass. The lighting is dramatic, with recessed cans evenly spaced to work stations, free- standing cans on upper shelves pointing towards, and reflecting off the ceiling, a hidden bulb that utilizes the vent hood as lamp shade while reflecting off the silver metal surfaces of the griddle, knob panel, and oven handle. There’s under-shelf, over-shelf, and pendant lights all throughout, and all on dimmers; and all controlled with those annoying switches that don’t click on or off, but are tapped lightly to brighten to pre-set levels. They even have little green lights within the switches themselves… a bit much imo. All in all, Benjamin’s lighting game is dope af. Classic boomer 80’s style with the cans, and the tracks, and the dimmers, and the switches. (I’m currently writing a song about his switch game)
Veronica was way into the cook books, which gave her the idea for a dinner party, and we planned to cook a big meal in November with Alex, Sarah, and Thom. She pulled a book of Jerusalem cooking off the shelf, and we looked at some of the recipes. We talked about “ethnic” foods and laughed about other things you can’t say anymore.
Veronica is Jewish so she can, but I can’t. I asked her if British food is ethnic food and why it tastes so shit. Sitting at the island counter was the most comfortable place and we lingered there for another hour, chatting about her school experience, calculus, new plastics research, politics, revolution, resistance, religion, poor people, abortion, and learning how to type in private school.
Looking at previous test site projects, and relying upon my memory of how I flowed through the house, as well as the official test site collaborators handbook suggest that the art spaces are typically the three front rooms. There is even an image of the shade blocking access to the kitchen from the dining room. One idea is to "open up" everything for viewers to experience the house as it functions as a house, not an art gallery. So I'm thinking about traffic flow, and noticing what happens when people enter. Both Patsy and Susan, who work here, entered through the rear door which puts you in the kitchen. Then they both went in the hallway and up the stairs. The public viewer will enter through the front door, and have a choice of whether to enter the hallway leading straight to the kitchen, or enter the living room.
How about just letting people roam all through the house like an open house? or an estate sale - even to the second floor? Maybe the second floor viewing would be like a tour of a house museum. Plastic on the floor…or maybe foot booties? people view only in tours of 6 or 8, with a tour guide. Let them peak in and see the bedrooms, the library, the personal effects, while giving brief comments. Another friend suggested we create an audio guide. Benjamin telling stories about his life, about his books, about his house. ︎