Preston, Julieanna. "When Two or More Materials Meet" [paper and video]. At WritingPlace Conference, TU Delft, Delft, Holland, November 2013.


Here is a house.
No, not a house, but a drawing of a house.
No, a construction drawing of a house.
A particular kind of drawing, an abstracted drawing of the house, its body cut, sectioned in several directions to give instruction about how it should be built.
The drawings are, in fact, only sufficient enough to get a building permit in the early 1990s.
The lines of the drawings are minimal, not minimalistic, but stingy, lacking lustre, describing a house that mimics the one down the road, the one to be built next week, the one in Dunedin, even the one in Australia; they all look alike.
They are all built alike.
This doesn’t mean that they work well as houses, just that they are built quickly and economically.
Industrial artefacts of a developer’s lack of imagination, time and desire and a builder’s comfort to stay with the plan as planned, to invested in the tried and true, to make such that it might appeal to the norm and therefore increase its saleability.

It did. I bought this house. I wanted to tear it down or haul it off site and start from scratch but the circumstances of my life intervened. The next house will be of my making. And until then, I will just renovate this one in small but deliberate ways to alter its generic innards.

It was winter when I set out to remove the first wall. This wall irritated me to no end; it stuck out, poked at me, as it severed the view from outside to inside to outside again. It must be removed. I had my hammer in hand ready to literally tear into it. I faced it squarely in its corner and weighed up how best to demolish it without damaging the surrounding wall surfaces. But then IT hit me. It met me face to face. 

Meeting, in general, is a state of introduction, encounter, rendezvous, or tryst. As person-to-person, person-to-object, or object-to-object interaction, meeting is a relational event even if there is no physical contact involved. When two or more things meet, their forces accelerate the event’s complexity and shape a congregation, convocation or conference, even a revolution or energy crisis. This work, Meeting, you in detail casts a light on generic interior details as events whereby live matters meet.

In recent years I have been prompting conversations between interior material surfaces to build up a repertoire of ethical practices specific to matter, human or not. I, like many others, are drawn to this re-ordering of the world-- a material turn of sorts, an effort to activate horizontality amongst all things, a parliament of matter and a democracy amongst species. Such notions assist me to connect with others - other people, other surfaces, other objects, other energy fields, other molecules, other forces but most of all, materials, most especially materials dubbed as generic or standard. I am drawn to the flirtation with animism, to pry at the edges of notions of aura, spirit, soul, fetish, consciousness, transubstantiation, personification and other (western) anthropocentric practices guarded by the age of scientific reason that negate animal, vegetal and even synthetic non-organic matter as forceful in themselves.

Meeting, you in detail is an ode, an elongated poem, dedicated to the wall that I am proposing to destroy. This is a sacrificial lament; there is mourning involved. Those generic construction material specifications become the whispers of sweet nothings tugging one to listen more intently. That winter day I sat in state for many hours with a wall that would be no longer in a matter of thirty minutes. The sensorial dimension of this abated labour is heightened by employing architect Carlo Scarpa’s practice of using a torch at night to view the design and craftsmanship of a building site.

Credit: Deanna Dowling, video editor