PhoneHome is designed and curated by Dorita Hannah (University of Tasmania), Joanne Kinniburgh (University of Technology, Sydney) and Shauna Janssen (Concordia University) in collaboration with the Performance in Practice Laboratory (P-Lab) at UTAS Creative Exchange Institute (CXI). The curators’ practice and research intersects in their shared focus on architectural performativity, social histories and spatial justice. Acknowledging that spaces and things ‘perform’, P-Lab is an interdisciplinary and collaborative test site that combines theory and action to utilise the event as a means of critiquing and reimagining our fast-changing contemporary world.
PhoneHome was presented at the XX Architecture & Urbanism Biennial, as part of “Unpostponable Dialogues,” in Valparaiso, Chile (2017).
The mobile phone has become a tethering device to friends, family and community that call upon each other across vast distances. In the 1982 movie E.T., the stranded Extra-Terrestrial needs to “phone home” and constructs a communication device from electronic components found around its hosts’ house. Exemplifying a stranger in a strange land – exiled from its own home – the detained alien (hailing from beyond the known world) is yearning to make connection and return to a familiar realm. 35 years later we inhabit an age where countless humans are forced to leave their homelands and seek asylum elsewhere: finding themselves defined as ‘aliens’ and confined in unhomely refugee camps and detention centres. What does this mean for those of us who are relatively secure in our location, for whom locale is critical to our research and practice?
This installation incorporates videos, created by artists, architects and designers, who have responded to the notion of ‘phone home’ as a spatially improvised communication device, providing the means for integrating issues of mediation, alienation and detention in performative statements that play on mobile phones embedded within a row of replica models of refugee cabins. These ubiquitous devices, no longer tethered to place (such as home), are now linked to individuals who transmit globally; opening up space for maintaining virtual networks of connection. As a body extension, such portable phones are also a means for situating, orienting, documenting, representing, transcending, and resisting a life lived in exile. The miniature cabins, by contrast, capture unhomely and spatially reductive experiences, while directly referencing architecture’s failure to critically engage, both in discourse and practice, with unpostponable questions of humanitarianism.
PhoneHome is an invitation for viewers to bodily and critically reflect on our own complicity in the spatial histories and architectural realities belonging to some of the most precarious political subjects of our time; the refugee, detainee, asylum seeker and perceived ‘alien’.