Living rooms are spaces we arrange and create around ourselves to support the comfort and wellbeing of family, to host friends and loved ones, to display precious and prized belongings, and for leisure and relaxation. But living rooms are private spaces packed with emotions and history, as well as social and political investments. The kind of living room we create can reveal our background, our values, our social position, and our aspirations. Even the privilege of having a living room speaks volumes when so many people live in precarious situations, are without shelter, or have been displaced from their homes and traditional lands.
This exhibition explores the many dynamics of domestic environments by staging a radically re-imagined living room in the gallery space. Unpacking the Living Room will host thoughtful community discussions about craft and art, amateurism and professionalism, leisure and labour, and the private and the political. Through playful and insightful interventions, Unpacking the Living Room invites community members to reflect on the histories and ideologies that ground understandings of self, home, belonging, and resilience.
– Julie Hollenbach, curator
Unpacking the Living Room and MSVU Art Gallery are situated in Mi’kma’ki, the unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq people, and within sight of the historic location of the Africville community.
Unpacking the Living Room was conceived by guest curator Julie Hollenbach and presented at MSVU Art Gallery, Halifax, over the period 8 September through 10 November 2018. The exhibition is staged in a living room set with a window, door and mantel-piece, and furnished in contemporary style. Works of art and craft by young and established artists ‘decorate’ the living room. Questions of social justice and identity are integral to each item of home décor and entertainment, to such an extent that the illusion of a private living space gives way to the inclusive actuality of a civic forum.
Support from these funding agencies and sponsors is also gratefully acknowledged: Canada Council for the Arts, Arts Nova Scotia, Nova Scotia Public Interest Research Group, MSVU Nancy’s Chair in Women’s Studies and Attica Furnishings Limited.