Marking the 50th anniversary of one of the first computer-generated poems and the “house” it inspired, CalArts celebrates Fluxus artist Alison Knowles’ seminal project, House of Dust, with Reframing the House of Dust: Activations, a day of readings and performances on campus Friday, March 23, and Reframing the House of Dust: A Symposium at REDCAT on March 24.
Both events are curated by MA Aesthetics and Politics faculty member Janet Sarbanes and Art by Translation directors Maud Jacquin and Sébastien Pluot (who have in recent years conducted an ambitious multi-institution engagement with House of Dust in New York, Montreal and Paris) and cap off a semester-long reexamination of the landmark work on the CalArts campus.
“We are thrilled to bring together an internationally renowned group of scholars, curators, writers and artists to reflect on House of Dust’s enduring influence,” Sarbanes said. “I also see this as a terrific way to bring attention to Alison’s work and the vibrant, collaborative and interdisciplinary work and pedagogy that has taken place at CalArts from its inception to the present day.”
On Friday, March 23, Reframing the House of Dust: Activations, an afternoon and evening of performances–free and open to the public–takes place at the House of Glass, a new structure inspired by the House of Dust that was designed and built by students in January. For the event, current faculty, students and guest artists perform pieces scored or inspired by Knowles and other Fluxus artists who once taught at CalArts. Knowles herself will participate with performances of her iconic scores Newspaper Music and Make a Salad.
On Saturday, March 24, Reframing the House of Dust: A Symposium at REDCAT features discussions with Sarbanes, Pluot and Jacquin, alongside art historians Hannah Higgins and Nicole Woods, curator and Fluxus scholar Karen Moss, poet and scholar Jasper Bernes and architectural historian Sylvia Lavin. Through the lens of House of Dust, presenters will consider questions of radical pedagogy (both Fluxus and feminist), participatory ecology, and cross-pollinations among poetry, architecture and early cybernetics.
Alison Knowles, House of Dust, 1967-70. Installation, mixed media. | Image courtesy of Alison KnowlesThe House of Dust was first conceived by Knowles in 1967 as a computer-generated poem in collaboration with composer James Tenney. It was then “translated” by Knowles into a structure which accompanied her to CalArts when she joined the original faculty. From 1969 to 1971, the House of Dust hosted an array of performances and events, and served as an alternative pedagogical hub on campus.
Demonstrating how the poetic disruption of computer programming could lead to a generative artwork, each quatrain of the poem results from a computer-generated chance operation. Each line was produced from lists of language compiled by the artist–indicating a type of house, a material, a site or situation, a light source and a category of inhabitants.
The original functional structure House of Dust created by Knowles, and situated at CalArts from 1970-72, was inspired by one stanza of the poem:
A HOUSE OF PLASTIC/IN A METROPOLIS/USING NATURAL LIGHT/INHABITED BY PEOPLE FROM ALL WALKS OF LIFE
Kicking off this semester’s reexamination of House of Dust during Wintersession, CalArts students in collaboration with Sarbanes, Jacquin, Pluot, artist and writer Ken Ehrlich and Knowles herself (via Skype), designed and built the House of Glass. 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 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 in a little over 12 hours. Later this year, a section of it will be transported to the MAK Center for Art and Architecture at the Schindler House in Los Angeles to be part of an exhibition and related events co-curated by Jacquin, Pluot and Anna Milone, curator of France Los Angeles Exchange (FLAX).
On March 8, the Wintersession makers of the House of Glass convened for a public performance-reading of Knowles' original poem. The reading performance was organized by School of Art student Gosia Wojas (Art BFA 19).
Watch the video below.
Reframing the House of Dust
Reframing the House of Dust: Activations
House of Glass, Lulu von Hagen Courtyard, CalArts
24700 McBean Parkway, Valencia
Reframing the House of Dust: A Symposium
631 W 2nd Street, Los Angeles