Just as expressions like “corridors of the mind” and “window to the soul” illustrate a link between architecture and our inner world, the artists featured in Lived Space explore our psychological and physical attachments to the places we build and inhabit. In their work, interior rooms function as receptacles of memory, emotion, and identity. Some artworks show the human body merging with the built environment, while others present imaginary structures that exist solely in the artist’s mind. Drawn from deCordova’s permanent collection, the exhibition addresses our impulse to adapt and relate to our architectural surroundings, as well as the ways in which these spaces shape and inspire us.
Shown in the Dewey Family Gallery, Lived Space also considers deCordova’s architectural history, which has undergone several transformations since its original construction. Inspired by their travels abroad, museum founders Julian and Lizzie de Cordova remodeled their summer home in 1910 to resemble a European castle. When the building became a contemporary art museum in 1950, the gallery transitioned from a private to public space. These architectural shifts, prompted by Julian and Lizzie’s personal history, dreams, and passions, suggest an intimate exchange between humans and their spaces that extends far beyond one of basic needs.
Bringing together more than 80 pictures taken by American photographers from the 19th century to today, “(un)expected families” explores the definition of the American family—from the families we are born into to the ones we have chosen for ourselves. The works on view depict a wide range of relationships, including multiple generations, romantic unions, and alternative family structures. Using archival, vernacular, and fine art photographs, “(un)expected families” offers a variety of perspectives on the American family. The exhibition illustrates that the family has always taken diverse forms: affluent and destitute, cohesive and fractured, expected and unexpected. “(un)expected families” features celebrated practitioners like Tina Barney, Milton Rogovin, Tanja Hollander, Nan Goldin, Carrie Mae Weems, LaToya Ruby Frazier, and Harry Callahan.
What began as a personal documentary on friendship and environmental portraiture has turned into an exploration of contemporary culture, relationships, generosity and compassion, family structure, community-building, storytelling, meal-sharing, the economy and class, the relationship between technology and travel in the 21st century, social networking, memory, and the history of the portrait. To accomplish this, Hollander follows in the footsteps of the Farm Security Administration photographers, such as Walker Evans and Dorothea Lange, who documented the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl. She is also informed by Robert Frank’s The Americans, an iconic book of photography from 1958, which documents postwar America. Like these historic photographers, Hollander has set out to see America and the world. She is recording how society uses photography, the portrait, and social media to create and define a 21st-century existence.
While Hollander has presented segments of this working project at galleries and museums throughout the world, Are you really my friend? premieres in its entirety at MASS MoCA. Visitors to the museum can expect to find a mix of photographs, video, data visualization/mining, travelogue, and landscape images, along with an interactive element that asks viewers to define what a real friend means to them. In the end, the project, while rooted in Facebook, goes beyond the superficial to explore ideas of interpersonal connections, travel, and community in today’s world.