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The House that George Built


Featured image: Photograph of a room being built upon

Dion Laurent’s website of The House that George Built contains 3 galleries of photographs which document a remarkable, satirical project in the grand tradition of doing exactly as you are told, in order to reveal and subvert the idiocy of national government.

The shelter that Laurent built in his home, takes as its starting point, instructions issued by the US Department of Homeland Security in their ‘Campaign for Citizen Preparedness’ . This revamp of the 1950’s ‘Duck and Cover’ campaign, (in which a hawkish US Government terrorized the population with lunatic, useless and blatantly alarmist civic defence schemes), takes the form of a duct- tape and plastic-covers initiative; another assalt on the psychological security of the American people.

Laurent playfully extrapolates the government blueprint for a home shelter against terrorist attack. With an inventive reworking of utilities such as the Air Phone and the Air Pump, enthusiastically constructed from found objects and household materials that look like they’ve already had a lot of everyday use, he develops and explores the campaign’s appeal to a sweat-of the-brow, do-it-yourself ethic. We intuit a certain Thoreau-like pride in his shelter and supplies; that sense of pioneering-spirit, self-sufficiency, a capacity to home-make for one.

In the ongoing series of paintings and reliefs the project becomes less lighthearted and less abstract and the true horror of what is being proposed by the government unfolds. Descriptive titles like DaisyClusterFuck, YellowBlueExplosion, PeacefulMuslim and GulfFighters reveal a darker aspect to the artist, as he takes on the persona of the “survivor”. The paintings indicate possible states of mind and obsessions for the isolated, sole inhabitant. They reflect his evolving values, religious beliefs and aspirations. In the paintings, land and nature merge with weaponry, perhaps to keep the theiving, murderous strangers out; so much for Flower Power.

This project exudes a fascination and exploration of a certain, very relevent masculine dysfunction, with serious humour, commitment care and craft.

*See the White House website

For further instructions on how to survive terrorist attacks of a biological and chemical nature or a nuclear blast and radiation.

20 August 2003