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Indepth Arts News:

"Susan Dobson: Open House"
2004-01-23 until 2004-02-21
Tatar Gallery
Toronto, ON, CA Canada

Photographer Susan Dobson continues her investigation into the nature of individuality and identity in her new series, Open House.  Dobson’s work has gradually moved inwards from the outside, and Open House deftly contrasts the human desire for individuality with the sameness of mass-produced consumer products. Starting with the construction process of identical subdivision dwellings in Home Invasion, Dobson began to question the idea of decoration as a means of asserting individuality in the series No Fixed Address and Paint Palettes.

Open House, the culmination of this concept, offers us a peak into the interiors of these seemingly identical suburban dwellings, as well as an insight into the minds of the inhabitants.

In Open House, the occupants are as conspicuously present in the photograph, despite the fact that there is not a single person present in any of these works. It is, perhaps, the absence of people in these works which makes one feel slightly uneasy: it is as if the subject has just stepped out of the photograph to put the kettle on. The person is present in these works in a way that they would not be if they were the actual subject of the photograph. This is nearly voyeurism. Looking at these documentary works is rather like going through someone else’s medicine cabinet.  

Drawing inspiration from Scott Donaldson’s writings on suburbia, Dobson’s works are a testament to the “enormous amount of effort [that] has been spent by suburbanites to make their homes different from those on either side and across the street.” Each photograph shows how the subject strives for individuality, from the books on the shelf, to the pictures on the wall and the kitchen furniture. What is unsettling is that the furniture is from Ikea, and the pictures are mass-reproductions.  Here, then, is the underlying dichotomy of suburban culture, the concept which Open House so frankly questions: how is autonomy to be achieved or asserted though these “mass produced, heavily marketed substitutes” for real individuality?

IMAGE
Susan Dobson
Untitled, 2002
Chromogenic Print
30" x 38"
Edition of 3


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