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Autumn at Grazer Kunstverein

Emma Wolf-Haugh
Domestic Optimism
September – November 2020


Emma Wolf-Haugh, Domestic Optimism, Architectural Anecdotes #01, Unité d'habitation, Berlin, 2019

Colonial aesthetics, obscenity trials, hysterical masculinity, crime scene photography, sexology, the production of the lesbian throughout modernity and the contemporary collapse of post-war social housing projects, all intersect in a critical queer-working class reading of architectural and design modernism. Working through acts of displacement Domestic Optimism is a performative exhibition intent on fucking with historical legacy through distinctly vernacular language and aesthetics. The project documents and enacts forms of inscription, temporal displacements, slippages from a ‘sapphic’ modernity onto the surfaces of contemporary queer, working class homes and bodies. The Irish-born self-taught modernist architect/designer Eileen Gray is an important figure in the projects research, not as a singular heroic modernist fit for canonisation but as a collectively involved queer woman, part of an extended peer group of dykey women makers in Paris throughout the early twentieth century. With the current decline in historical thinking, shifts in historical narrating are necessary in putting the past to work in the turbulent present.

Emma Wolf-Haugh (born 1974) is a visual artist and educator. Weaving together installation, performance, publishing and collaborative workshop techniques, she is interested in re-orienting attention in relation to cultural narratives and develops work from a queer/feminist questioning of what is missing? Her practice is informed by previous experience in theatre and queer DIY club scenes, both sites where spaces and spatial relations are generated temporarily. The stage and the dance floor or darkroom are designed to focus attention via a set of aesthetic practices, including the manipulation of audio/visual, moveable hard/soft architectures, ephemera and the performing body. This has led to a continuing engagement with the aesthetics of club culture along with questions of spatial politics and an incorporation of theatricality as a means of making propositions. Emma is co-founder of the artist collective The Many Headed Hydra together with Suza Husse. Emma has been in artist in residence at the Irish Museum of Modern Art since July 2019. Current & recent projects include: Seized by the Left Hand, curated by Eoin Dara and Kim McAleese at Dundee Contemporary Arts, Dec 2019, Is it Possible to Exist Outside of Language, curated by Aziz Sohail, at Indus Valley School of Art & Architecture, Karachi, Pakistan, I SLIPPED INTO MY FIRST METAMORPHOSIS SO QUIETLY THAT NO ONE NOTICED, curated by Gitte Villesen, Den Frie Center Of Contemporary Art, Copenhagen (2019), Colomboscope interdisciplinary arts festival, curated by Natasha Ginwala, with The Many Headed Hydra, Sri Lanka (2019).

Co-produced with Project Arts Centre, Dublin. Supported by Culture Ireland.