The House of Beautifully Earned Trust [Muster Station] (2018)
Video and performance programme in the Horsebridge Cinema, Whitstable, Kent, followed by a walk to the House of Beautifully Earned Trust.
Publicity text for The House of Beautifully Earned Trust:
“Is this a new form of Airbnb or a regular family home? Yes. Is it a protest or a celebration? No. Do they love art or seek to destroy it? Yes. Who is the family? No. What year is this? Yes. Why do they need visitors? No. Who’s actually in charge around here? No. What does it mean for our future? Yes. And so on? Maybe.
The House of Beautifully Earned Trust is devised by Adam Chodzko and performed by Muster Station.
Muster Station is a rethinking and regrouping; an evolving group of artists that emerged from the closure of their art school at the University of Kent. As a sequel to, and inversion of, Chodzko’s The School of Beginnings held at Tate Modern, (February, 2018), strategically moving from the UK’s largest and most acclaimed institution for contemporary art to a small provincial house in semi-rural Kent, the Muster Station artists ask you to now put your trust in them, to show you a video, a sound, a walk and a home; The House of Beautifully Earned Trust.”
In response to a commission from the 2018 Whitstable Biennale Chodzko wanted to lay open the process of trying (and failing, perhaps) to work with a family home within the town. A home and family that would simultaneously be beyond the reach of, or without the interest in, the ‘art world’, whilst also, through Chodzko’s action, becoming fully incorporated into that world. albeit briefly, in the form of a new social space for the staging of art.
The project began with door-to-door flyer-ing of particular streets in Whitstable, offering a free “expert” house cleaning service delivered by a group of artists in exchange for allowing this performative event to be staged, for two hours on one evening, in their house inclusive of their family’s presence and working around and amongst their usual daily activities.
Chodzko decided on ‘house cleaning’ as the nature of the gift in this exchange as a way of overcoming the perception that artists might be associated with messiness and chaos, or even dirtiness, transgression and perversion. Somehow offering (communicated by an elegant publicity card) a clean house, might, by association, make the presence of unfamiliar artists somehow less risky and more ‘wholesome’.
However, nobody responded to the offer/request. So, Chodzko proceeded to disseminate increasingly simplified versions of the flyer by initially removing any reference to ‘art’ and finally just asking: “What would you like?” and delivered these to further Whitstable households. On each occasion he received no response.
Chodzko therefore decided that this absent “home and family beyond the artworld” needed to be understood and appreciated through a process of attempting to “become it”. So, an Airbnb house was rented and dressed to appear to be an ‘ordinary’, busy, family home. Inside this staged space the Muster Station artists played the role of ‘the family’ to the audience, whilst treating the audience as familiar guests, asking them to help tidy up, chop onions, or hand round snacks etc, whilst also appearing individually to be following a peculiar set of rules that rendered the collective experience semi-dreamlike.
Earlier that evening, the story of this social construction appeared in a programme of videos and performances held in the Horsebridge Cinema, Whitstable. Within the video, one of the Muster Station artists, José Fernández Levy, based in Mexico, is seen pointing to various locations within his own family home in Yucatan (eg; a patch of damp on a living room wall, a pipe under a bathroom sink, a light fitting in a bedroom etc) . These sites became the positions for the other Muster Station artists’ videos and performances.
The House of Beautifully Earned Trust is about the very local, immediate and intimate in a form of play with the remote and constructed. It is an experiment in trying to access a space, both real and imaginary, that, understandably has no interest in or place for art, and offers a method in how to stop being artists in order to do make this particular form of contact. It
The script for the voice-over introduction to the video programme in the Cinema :
Shhhhh!…Shhhhhhh!…settle down please, settle down!…Try and keep the noise down!
We are about to begin….
You may be the wrong audience.
You see, we were wondering if there was someone else, beyond you, who might come to see who we are and what we make?
We wondered if there was someone else who could be us, better than us, in order that we could be you…but better!
(Not “be better than you!” But we’d better be you!)
We all might be better if we weren’t us,….and instead if we became those people who are currently out of reach…
For instance: We began by trying to find another home…another family.
We dropped flyers through doors along the streets of the town offering to clean their homes for free.
We did this in the hope that we could exchange this service in order to join their family in their home for a few hours.
So that we could make something together and so that they could show us to you.
We suggested a service of cleaning because art and artists may be thought of as a bit…‘odd.’
We thought this might help.
Nobody called. Nobody was interested!
Thinking ‘art’ was the problem, we cut out any reference to it and then flyered the town’s streets again.
Again, nobody called. Nobody was interested!
Maybe all the homes are clean enough already?
(Apart from ours)
We’d said: “No knowledge of art required.”
Maybe this was an impossible request and it turns out that everyone, at least in this town, has a knowledge of art.
So, we needed to become this family and this home who didn’t need us.
But first we needed to get into the right state of mind…
(Voice-over performed by Adam Chodzko’s partner, Gretchen Egolf, and son, Clay Barnard Chodzko)
Family roles in The House of Beautifully Earned Trust;
Olu Taiwo: sister, mother, etc
Fiona Townend: son, brother, cousin, etc
Jose Macabra: daughter, sister, niece, etc
Jordan Colbert: father, grandfather, uncle, etc
José Fernández Levy: sister, aunt, etc
Daniel Owusu: mother, aunt, niece, etc
Carol Smith: daughter, sister, etc
Claire Orme: sister, cousin, aunt, etc
Angel Obi: father, uncle, grandfather, etc
Andrew Gallacher: daughter, sister, etc
Adam James: sister, niece, etc
Sophie Chapman: aunt, sister, cousin, etc
Adam Chodzko: sister, daughter, etc
José Fernández Levy: pointing at the places we are needed, in his mother’s house in Yucatan.
Andrew Gallacher: pounding down your door.
Angel Obi: a scar
Jordan Colbert: a dark space behind the walls and under the water and soil
Fiona Townend: a sheet hanging in the sun and a butterfly
Jose Macabra: black and white sounds and a figure flickering
Olu Taiwo: VHS tape
Carol Smith: 35mm slides and words and a poem
Documentation photography by Rosie Lonsdale.