Everything starts at home (2005)
In January 2005 I organized a family reunion during which I proposed a project that would invite each member to interrogate their environment and their privacy. That sacred, private space that you only share with trusted people. A house imbued physically and symbolically by its inhabitants, from the furniture to the particular aesthetic sense, full of symbols and memories.
This family home located in San Miguel one block away from the Preventative Detention Center, more commonly known as the San Miguel Prison, which, in spite of having a maximum capacity of 800 prisoners, hold 2,000.
This family home is surrounded by factories, including two blocks of factories built by the company MADECO, a Luksic Group holding that manufactures aluminum and copper plates and tubing.
There is a long and important history of trade union activism at MADECO, and the union house, just down the street from this family home, is half a block away from the bodega Don Peyo where they serve up the best pork shoulder and avocado sandwiches in Santiago. The offices of the Chilean federation of what in Chile is a very little known sport, bocce ball, are also located on this block, alongside a chicha factory that nobody knows the name of, and, half a block away, the boxing gym where the great Martín Vargas trained and fought.
All of this on a street that bears the name of a man who, apparently, would otherwise have been totally forgotten to history: Ureta Cox. Nobody has any idea who he was or why they named this street after him.
This family home, located on calle Ureta Cox, was remodeled in 1994 and has been inhabited ever since by Raúl Tapia Cabrera, Luisa Salinas Salinas, Daniel Horno Salinas, and Francisco “Papas Fritas” Tapia Salinas.
Raúl Tapia is a successful shoe salesman who through hard work was able to save enough money to remodel this house. He remodeled it according to his own ideas and dreams and with great ambition, but at the same time with the satisfaction of having won the ability to do so through years of sacrifice. Raúl Tapia is the owner of the house and my father. He is a shy person, a person who has wounds that only he knows about. But at the same time he is an accomplished actor and an artist in the construction of his own personality. Full of jokes and good humor, expert in the shoe business and in the puddle of tears that shoemakers shed. With the introduction of cheap, mass-produced shoes and synthetic materials elaborated in China and Brazil, the national production of shoes came to an end. But he continues to make the monthly payments on the house so that we can live here, still thanks to shoes, but now as a vendor of shoes made in Brazil.
Keep these facts in mind as you read about what I proposed to do to this middle-class Chilean family.
I proposed that the other members of this nuclear family transform our home into a work of art. In order to transform the house into a work of art I decided to invite 20 contemporary artists to intervene in it during a one-month period. Throughout this month these artists worked in groups of two or three. Every three days the house incorporated new works, some which were destined to remain in the house, others that were more ephemeral, and still more that would be transported elsewhere so that others might take their place.
In this way the house would be subjected to a new internal movement, a new way of feeling and seeing itself, a changing habitat that would ontologically affect its inhabitants.
For each intervention the house was opened to the public and the neighborhood. That learned privacy was relinquished. Its internal form, its gradual construction by the people who inhabited it, by a family, was exposed. Beyond the fences and the curtains, the mystery that every home hides within its walls was transcended. It became populated by signs that put into question its familiar space.
That is how Everything starts at home began to function. What the art world confused for a gallery in a show curated by one of its young inhabitants was nothing more than a simple house that positioned itself as an object. It was an artwork—a house—that in its interior had a life of its own, social networks and social power that went on building and transforming it to the rhythm of daily life.
It was agreed that the house would never stop being that, and each intervention was made with the utmost solemnity and respect. Each artist was invited not only to intervene in or contribute an aesthetic gesture to the construction, but also to become a part of the family, one of those intimate friends that has permission to move about the home as they please.
The days when the house was opened up to visiting hours were not referred to as “inaugurations.” People were invited to come in as one would invite one’s friends, or their friends’ friends. And with the corresponding hospitality, they were offered drinks, a cup of tea, some cookies, a seat, some bread, and a few loving words.
These events had the flavor of a house party. The public felt warm and at home. Totally absent were the fear and respect that official art spaces evoke and demand, monitored spaces with security cameras, cold spaces meant to warehouse untouchable pieces whose market value matters more than human touch. Where the barrier between artwork and spectator is similar to that which emerges between the devotee and the untouchable altar of a saint in a church.
At the end of the day, this work was constructed around the dining room table of the house in conversations between the inhabitants and their guests. The question was left open to the public as to which objects had always been in the home and which had been recently installed by the artists. Many observers took interests in every day objects that had always been there.
Around the table all pretentiousness dissolved, and the conversations were wide-ranging and free-flowing. This social space and this family were more important than the excuse which had been used to bring people together: the art objects.
The memory of this month-long series of intervention is more than mere anecdote for the family. It was a memorable life experience, a strange and wonderful time, difficult to describe, that revolutionized them and generated new perspectives and new questions about life. And it permitted the other members of the family to see in a new light their brother-son, who managed to demonstrate that he is not the only one who makes these “unjustifiable insanities.” Here were 20 crazies just like him. And 50 more came through to visit. There must be at least 500 in Chile, elaborating and creating.
A family that allows itself to be permissive, to give itself over to the process, its only motivation being their love of their artist son who dedicates so much time to bringing ideas to life and their desire to help him as best they can to achieve his goals and realize his dreams.
Everything that one is and desires starts at home.
Everything starts at home. From being a person to being an artist, from educating and sharing one’s passions so that the other can confront what you do and strive to understand and feel stimulated and affected by that. Learning from one’s guests who visited and worked on the house. And above all coming together and discovering each other in new ways as a family.
Everything starts at home, from understanding to making oneself understood.
The simplicity, the intimate, the private nature of what is a home is transformed into a large scale piece. It is exhibited. It is transformed into a work of art. A living work. A work that makes the public feel “at home.”
Simply everything that one is and desires begins at home.