Inspired by the concept of the traditional instruction manual or ‘how to’ guide, Jan McCullough adds a contemporary twist by taking direction from unwitting strangers in an internet chatroom. She typed, ‘How to make a home’, into Google and was directed to a live forum with users discussing views on what constitutes the perfect home. The artist observed the discussion for a month as the topics ranged from how a home should smell (Shepherd’s Pie), to what kind of photographs should be on display and where (family and travel snapshots hung up the stairs). She then downloaded the conversation as a transcript and rented an unfurnished house where she brought their visions of the ideal home to life, room by room.
The exhibition will bring together extracts from the online instructions that the artist followed, and the photographs that document the fictional home they led her to create. In the process the gallery will be transformed into a space that merges the virtual with the vernacular. The users’ discussion, which is at times hilarious and at times heart-wrenching, also highlights questions that resonate universally:
“I always wonder if everyone who posts here is truthful. I know I like to come here to escape my real life stuff, it’s kind of the same thing - peeking in at other people’s lives, either from the street or your laptop”
Yet, despite common fears surrounding the honesty of self-published online profiles, McCullough’s photographs reveal a familiar vision of ‘normal’ homely banality - a kitchen cork-board covered in take-away menus, a cat sleeping on the bed and lived-in mess in every room.
“Jan is a photographer from Belfast with a weak spot for manuals, books that tell you how to do things. For this project she searched the internet for tips on how to build your perfect home. After collecting all the tips, Jan rented a house and followed all the instructions given to her. She photographed the end result; a home with a forced personality. Something you can’t say about Jan McCullough, a natural talent to watch out for.”
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Jan McCullough (b.1991) is a graduate of Belfast School of Art. She won the Kassel Fotobook Festival Dummy Award in 2015 for Home Instruction Manual. The book is due to be published in Spring 2016 by Verlag Kettler, and will launch in London at The Photographers’ Gallery. In 2015 she was also selected as one of six Belfast Exposed Futures artists.
Recent exhibitions and awards include:
Belfast Exposed Futures, Espace Lhomond, Paris (2015)
Unseen Photo Fair, Amsterdam (2015)
Home Instruction Manual, Belfast Exposed Gallery (2015)
Genesis Award, FORMAT International Photography Festival (2015)