Event Date: 28 October 2010
12:00 – 14:00
Room 321 Birkbeck Main Building
Daniel Miller (UCL) and Matt Cook (Birkbeck) – ‘Home’
At home with Shannon and Ricketts – Matt Cook
The artists Charles Shannon and Charles Ricketts met at the City and Guilds Technical Art School in Kennington Park Rd, London, in 1882. They lived together in London (in Kennington, Chelsea, Richmond, and Kensington) and latterly also in a castle keep in Kent until Ricketts died some 49 years later. During this period they accumulated a vast collection of art and antiques which they displayed and stored in their various homes. In their wills they left the bulk of this collection to the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge along with albums of photos in which they represent their homes in very particular ways – not as cosy retreats or havens of domestic bliss, but as treasure houses displaying their exquisite possessions and their investment in particular pasts and an aesthetic and artistic present. In the correspondence and diaries that survive neither man describes himself as a homosexual or invert; nor do they allude to the sex they might have had together or the romantic attachment they may have felt. Their bond and relationship was articulated by the men themselves and by their circle of friends in terms of their co-residence; their emotional, practical, and aesthetic investment in the home; and the extraordinary collection which they accumulated and displayed together. If home was a place of self expression but also secrecy, retreat and (if the police gained access) incrimination for some other ‘queer’ men during this period, Shannon and Ricketts sustained their coupledom and perhaps also protected it from criticism in part through what Sharon Marcus describes as ‘their intensely domestic existence’ and also their open, visible, and highly cultured rendition of home.
This paper explores the multiple strands of this ‘queer’ (that is – to their contemporaries – ‘odd’) couple’s domestic investment. How did it speak for and of them? How did it mark them out from, and connect them to, other individuals, couples and families they knew (including the Robert Ross; the Wildes; ‘Michael Field’ [the female poet duo]; and various married friends and their children)? How did it relate to wider cultures of home? And how might it have rendered their partnership respectable and uncontentious; odd perhaps, but not despicable or immoral? Taking Shannon and Ricketts as a case study, I examine some of the ways in which home might function as a symbol and material indicator of ‘queer’ alienation, belonging, difference, and ‘normalisation’ during this period, and ponder more broadly how house and home might speak to us now of queer lives in the past.
Migration and Home in the age of Facebook – Daniel Miller
What happens when Filipino children left behind by migrant parents are faced with the choice of whether to friend their mothers on Facebook? How have family relationships been transformed by what we call polymedia, that is a shift towards a slew of alternative media for transnational communication combined with a rapid reduction of cost? It might be presumed that such that parents, divided from their children, would be able to reconstitute their family and their home, now that they can be in touch twenty times a day by text or online with skype and webcam. Research by Mirca Madianou and myself with mothers in the UK and their children in the Philippines suggest that the effects of polymedia are far more complex and contradictory than that.