Courtesy of Cornell University

March 12, 2020

Playing with the Idea of Home: “The Domestic Plane”

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While the concept of home is for some a solid, unchanging notion, the term represents for others a nebulous collection of objects, tastes, memories, scents and people. The complexity of representing this idea is at the heart of The Domestic Plane, the latest installment to come to the Bibliowicz Family Gallery in Milstein Hall.

The exhibit is the work of artists C. T. Jasper and Assistant Prof. Joanna Malinowska, art, both originally hailing from Poland. Neither is new to working with Cornell, with their piece The Emperor’s Canary — which focused primarily on sound — on display at the University in 2018.

The exhibition explores the process of conceptualizing the physical spaces in which we live our lives. The installment pulls together a variety of objects ranging from mundane to exotic, including a washing machine, an old school television set complete with antennae, a wooden boat paddle and a pair of humanlike figurines, one vibrantly colored and the other more monochromatic.

What is perhaps most alluring about The Domestic Plane, however, is its fluctuation. According to a press release from the College of Architecture, Art and Planning, the exhibition will undergo a number of adjustments during the month it is on display. This aspect of continuous change is a testament to the fleeting nature of home, both regarding our geographic presence in the world and our perceptions of the places closest to us.

One of the focal points of the piece is a modern-looking, shiny washing machine — an ode to the duo’s 2010 In Search of Primordial Matter. The lid of the appliance is sealed with a bold cross of black tape, and the dial is set to “Super Load.” A yellow note stuck to the front proclaims that the machine is set to “Perpetual spin mode” and lists the machine’s contents, ranging from “Cartesian doubt” to a “dead hare that knows a lot about art” and “Gottfried Leibniz: Discours de métaphysique.” We see a dichotomy between the ordinary and the existential, demonstrating that while our conceptions of home might appear simple or straightforward, this place is in reality the backdrop for much of our introspection.

Two sounds dominate the audible landscape of The Domestic Plane. The first is a deep voice emanating from the television set that recites the work of American poet Allen Ginsberg, while the second is the subtle, airy spinning of the washing machine. As one stands in the gallery the two sounds begin to blend together; the confluence is a serene hum that is stunningly familiar to anyone who has ever tried to concentrate on something in the midst of a family member doing laundry or a friend watching the 8-o’clock news.

In this way, we see ourselves in Jasper and Malinowska’s work while also seeing items that have no place in our schema for home, such as an eye-catching green loveseat that looks like it hails from a futuristic film.

Just a short stroll from the high rises of North Campus and the luxurious suites of West Campus, The Domestic Plane pushes viewers to think about the significance of various physical spaces with which they interact. Whether or not one’s current living quarters are synonymous with their perception of home, there is no doubt that the places in which we spend time leave indelible effects on who we are, how we act and how we think.


The exhibition is scheduled to run until April 9 and is open on weekdays from 9:00am to 4:30pm.



Megan Pontin is a freshman in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. She can be reached at [email protected].