this used to be a house • Isha Naguiat

Sep 5 to Sep 30, 2019 • Video Room

French philosopher Gaston Bachelard referred to a house as our “corner of the world”, a place where we reside and take root. Its corners and spaces serve as the setting in which the residues of our life accrue. So fundamental is our connection to these structures that we often go through life seemingly tethered to them. For many, regardless of the distance of their travels, a seemingly unbroken string binds them to home. But if our house occupies an elemental position in our being, the summer house— that backdrop of countless vacations— dwells in a more unconventional, but nonetheless vital, part of our selves.

The imagery of the house is a cornerstone of Isha Naguiat’s visual language. Her works navigate through the materiality of fabric and thread, interspersed with the emotional and nostalgic significations of family photos. These layers of material and image are often framed within the basic structure of a house. Here in her latest exhibition, the artist turns her attention to a family abode by the beach that in recent years have been eaten up by the sea. In both static and moving images, Naguiat juxtaposes past and present, rendering the house’s structure in flux and recalling gaps in time that led to its transfiguration. These gaps have often been traversed by way of recorded image or narrative retelling, anchored within the walls and beams where the events took place. The vacation house then, even in ruins, can summon the perpetual sunshine of carefree days, the insouciant crash of waves.

Learning how the scrap remains of the house were used by the local community to create a seawall, Naguiat reckons of a dual narrative— one of decay and of life. In the coming centuries we may not be able to keep the waters at bay. The habitations we carve from stone and sand may prove to be futile. Yet in the gap between the present and the inevitable, potential futures expand and take space, materials dance and metamorphose. The same concrete which shores up memories of the sea also stems its tides.

—JC Rosette