The Social Home
There is a peculiar habit of “Austericans” (members of a society whose New culture takes over its indigenous civilisation) Robin Boyd was ever the serial neologiser (Featurism, Austerican, Bushmanist, etc.) whereby they find privacy in their own car. Marshall McLuhan called this a “hidden ground” behind the use of the car. Australians paradoxically go outside to be alone and go home to be social, which explains the average oversized Australian car. Whereas a great majority of the world goes home to be alone and finds the social world outside, which would explain the popularity of the small European/Japanese two-door. So while the car bites back in the face of the motorist by being at once a hermetic private space where the driver is alone, immobilised in the gauntlet of traffic we all know so intimately, the Australian home is a social space, requiring the sort of finery on show for when guests arrive: the very same Featurist things that made Boyd cringe crimson red.
Home owners, like mayors, keep a watchful eye over their public space, and ‘insist on featuring something…some symbol of his own success’1 and eagerly look for the next investment to garner status. As much as the home shapes histories of migration and material culture, ‘at least half of the monthly mortgage payments paid by the average Australian home owner goes towards sustaining meanings, rather than keeping out the rain.’2
And so admiration is received of a suburban home if it is associated with catalogue-style character, which requires regular consumption and the sort of finished quality not indicative of issues common to families like mortgage debt, sexism, domestic abuse, clutter, crime or any of the chaotic normalities that typify daily suburban life. Catalogue-style character and its ‘quality of empty perfection, however, is precisely why such images are so appealing to us.’3
Boyd, R., 1963 . The Australian Ugliness. Sydney: Penguin Books Australia.
Dever, M. 2006. “Introduction” in Exhibition Catalogue: Home. Melbourne: Monash University, pp.1-3.
Fiske, J., Hodge, B., Turner, G., 1987. Myths of Oz: Reading Australian Popular Culture, Sydney: Allen & Unwin.
1Boyd (1963, pp.132)
2Fiske, J., Hodge, B., Turner, G. (1987, pp. 26)
3Dever (2006, pp.3)
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