About

The Reframing the House of Dust initiative at CalArts undertakes a reconsideration of and response to Fluxus artist Alison Knowles’ 1967-71 House of Dust project, one element of which was sited on the CalArts campus from 1969-71. It is sponsored by the CalArts MA Aesthetics and Politics program, in collaboration with Art by Translation, the MAK Center for Art and Architecture and FLAX.

The original House of Dust poem, a collaboration between Knowles and James Tenney, was computer-generated in 1967. It demonstrated how programming language — in this instance, Fortran — could be employed in chance operations in art making. Each quatrain of the poem consisted of four lines drawn from lists of language compiled by Knowles, indicating a type of house, a material, a site or situation, a light source, and a category of inhabitants. One quatrain was then “translated” by Knowles into a functional structure, also titled “House of Dust,” which was first sited in a Chelsea housing co-op and then moved to CalArts when Knowles joined the original faculty in 1969. It read:

A HOUSE OF PLASTIC

IN A METROPOLIS

USING NATURAL LIGHT

INHABITED BY PEOPLE FROM ALL WALKS OF LIFE

In January 2018, CalArts students — in collaboration with CalArts Faculty members Ken Ehrlich and Janet Sarbanes and French curators Sebastien Pluot and Maud Jacquin, as well as Knowles herself (via Skype) — designed and built the House of Glass, a new iteration of the House of Dust. To construct the house, students studied the original poem, the 35-page scroll of tractor-feed computer paper that resides in the CalArts archive, and, along with instructors, chose a different quatrain on which to base a new social sculpture:

A HOUSE OF GLASS

ON AN ISLAND

USING ALL AVAILABLE LIGHTING

INHABITED BY VARIOUS COLLECTORS OF ALL TYPES

The new house was designed in four days and erected over an additional four days. In 2019, a section of it will be transported to the MAK Center for Art and Architecture at the Schindler House in Los Angeles for an exhibition and related events.

Throughout spring 2018, the newly-built structure will serve as a site for readings, performances and exhibitions, and a focal point for courses on Fluxus, experimental architecture and housing issues.  It is open to all uses by all members of the CalArts community (see calendar). “Reframing the House of Dust” is also the theme of a series of activations to take place in the House of Glass on 3/23/18, and a day-long symposium at RedCat on 3/24/18.

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