foundations


Foundations is a companion document to Michael Lee Hong Hwee's installation titled The Consolations of Museology, as part of Mutating Organisation / Organising Mutation, an independent project of Farewell to Post-Colonialism: The 3rd Guangzhou Triennial 2008 at the Guangdong Museum of Modern Art. The Consolations of Museology investigates everyday problems by engaging the discourses of museum studies, architectural design and book art. This book-and-video installation proposes ten hypothetical museums that celebrate personal failures:

The Great Hall of Rejects
Window Shopper's Union
Museum for the Frustrated
Centre of Dependency
A Loser's Respite
Federation of Failures
Institute of Contemporary Fools
Pandemonium of the Perfect Mess
The Mishappen Collective
The House of Escape Artists

Included with the book is Hinterlands,a 16-minute video documentation by Willie Koh, Nicholas Escoffier and han.
The House as Museum
Designer’s reverie | Brendan Goh (an excerpt)

For our house is our corner of the world, as has often been said, it is our first universe, a real cosmos in every sense of the word.... The first, the oneirically definitive house, must retain its shadows.... [and] ...constitutes a body of images that give mankind proofs or illusions of stability. We are constantly re-imagining its reality: to distinguish all these images would mean developing a veritable psychology of the house.

– Gaston Bachelard,
The Poetics of Space, 19581


And what else could a museum be but an abode; a home for all that is unhomely and abject in this world – the unnameable things that one both recognises and is repulsed by, that most surely is part of oneself ? That darkness resides within, is an age-old concept, rooted in religion, philosophy and recently psychology, as well as in much of the world's literature and history. The entire narrative of existence, as some would have it, is a struggle between light and darkness. Fiat lux, it was said, and so it shall be....

But let us take a step back, a moment before that blinding light. If one were there before it began, what would one see? Would it be a point of being where all one could tell of the world was a dark, pulsating beat and a continuous feeding, and muffled sounds of things that sometimes made themselves known? And would we be able to put into word and image what we encounter, and live with the knowledge of that knowing? Such are the questions that visitors to these museums, wanderers that traverse their paths, must contend with. If indeed museums are homes, then homes too, are museums. In fact, they are our very first museums, for they record far too many details of our passing. Just a brief look around, and one discovers little signs that announce one's presence. The choice of furnishings and the collection of objects speaks of inhabitants more than what they speak of themselves.

Today, perhaps, crumpled newspapers by the sofa. Or crumbs on the table, now caught in a flurry of activity as denizens arrive to feast upon them. Walls, exhaling a collective sigh as tiles peel and paint flake from them, like the shedding of skin. The rhythm of water puddling on the floor, a natural metronome of unusual circumstance....2 The house is more than a mere shelter from the elements; it is the most personal and private of spaces. Here unseen and unspoken boundaries abound, unsaid words tracing memories, maybe events that have happened within the earlier homes that one inhabits. Yes, it is a museum, a silent witness ever and always recording an existence, telling a story.

Thus in this most sacred space that is at once house and home, museum and prison, library and archive, world and kingdom, where one resides, one is both master and slave. From roof to cellar, in this tower, where one lives and breathes, one also meanders along labyrinths of memories, sails seas of tears and embarks on amorous voyages.

Such, is the chaos of life enshrined within this temple of experience, and within each one of us we bear our homes on crosses and crowns of thorns. If a day should come when one chances upon these signs that mark a house as a home, one should learn to tread lightly and carefully, for they are reminders to visitors that they are the other within the domain of this most sacred space; to enter it is to enter a world inside and beyond, the first step of many steps into corners dark and obscure, for they are places hidden deep within the psyche, abysses of the mind; an everlasting night... And if one should need to know why, all one needs to do is to remember the first house-museum,for psychology begins at home.


(Endnotes)
1 Gaston Bachelard, “The House. From Cellar to Garret. The Significance of the Hut”, in Maria Jolas (Trans.), The Poetics of Space (Boston, Massachusets: Beacon Press, 1994), 4-17, passim.

2 As a resident designer of a recent project to which I was a contributor, I had the opportunity of discovering a number of the abovementioned observations. In addition, the residency was an odyssey through an entire mycological ecosystem, populated with an empire of arthropods mainly from the order Blattaria that insist on inviting themselves to my meals, abyssal lakes with indiscernible contents exuding fumes and springing from subterranean sources, and neighbours whose sole aim was to incinerate and move as much flesh as possible.

ISBN 978-981-08-1347-5

First published in 2008
in an edition of 500
by Studio Bibliothèque
and WORM

Printed and bound in Hong Kong
by Lammar Offset Printing Ltd

Typeset in Adobe Caslon Pro
on New Gentle 102gsm (text)
Tant 82gsm (endpapers)
Tracing 112gsm (flyleafs)
Linen 110gsm (cover)

Creative Direction: Michael Lee Hong Hwee
Criticism: Lilian Chee
Art Direction/Design: Brendan Goh
Photography: han
Film: Willie Koh with Nicholas Escoffier (Music), han (Photography) & Michael Lee Hong Hwee (Publication)
Editing: Naddim Abbas
Proofreading: Tang Ling Nah
Research Assistance: Amethyst Chau Cheuk Ying & Jessie Cheong
Main books: Tang Kwok Hin (Paper Engineering, 1st), Homan Ho (Paper Engineering, 2nd) & Lee Chun Feng (Production Assistance)
Special Thanks: Leung Chi Wo, Low Jat Leng, Jerry Soo & Damon Tong

© 2008 The publishers and contributors
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission from the publisher and the copyright owners, or in accordance with the provisions of the Copyright Act (Cap. 63) 2006.