Ania Dabrowska’s House of Homeless (Arlington Portraits), 2010-2012 is a socially engaged work positioned between conceptual photography and portraiture that sets out to challenge social stigma and stereotypes about homelessness. Starting with 125 photographs of a chair (total number of people living and working at Arlington at the start of Ania Dabrowska’s art residency), the artist gradually replaces the photographs of empty chairs with portraits of people who chose to participate in her project.
House of Homeless responds to tensions that are at the heart of this challenge between notions of individual vs. institution, institution and home; social isolation vs. social engagement. Contemplating the potential of art to stimulate new types of social engagement the artist makes every portrait, and every ‘absence’, a marker of Arlington’s residents and workers relationship with this institution and with photography in more general terms. Each empty chair becomes a symbolic manifestation of a myriad of possible reasons for displacement and disengagement of the homeless within society. Every portrait, on the other hand, affirms sitter’s individual position of power, including a title by which they chose to be identified within project’s parameters.
House of Homeless draws on tradition of formal and institutional portraiture. Whilst aesthetic conventions of such portraits, especially in the sphere of private homes, might have shifted historically, its functions remain clear. Depictions of directors, managers, or accomplished family members, have adorned walls of family homes, public institutions, and corporations for centuries, imposing the authority, confirming the positions of power, asserting historical lineage and social standing.
125 photographs, each work: digital C-Type Print, 40.6 cm x 30.5 cm (image size) 52 cm x 72 cm (frame size), Edition of 5 + 1 AP