On its 50th Anniversary, Artist Alison Knowles’ Landmark House of Dust to be Celebrated with Performances at CalArts and a Symposium at REDCAT

On its 50th Anniversary, Artist Alison Knowles’ Landmark House of Dust to be Celebrated with Performances at CalArts and a Symposium at REDCAT

Valencia, Calif. (Feb. 28, 2018) – Marking the 50th anniversary of one of the first computer-generated poems and the “house” it inspired, California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) will celebrate Fluxus artist Alison Knowles’ seminal project, House of Dust, with “Reframing The House of Dust: Activations, a day of performances on campus Friday, March 23, and “Reframing the House of Dust: A Symposium” at Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater (REDCAT) in Downtown Los Angeles on Saturday, March 24, 2018. Both events are curated by CalArts MA Aesthetics and Politics faculty member Janet Sarbanes and the directors of Art by Translation Maud Jacquin and Sébastien Pluot (who have in recent years conducted an ambitious multi-institution engagement with House of Dust in New York, Montreal, and Paris).

“We are thrilled to bring together an internationally renowned group of scholars, curators, writers, and artists to reflect on the House of Dust’s enduring influence,” said Janet Sarbanes, who is currently leading a semester-long reexamination of the landmark work on campus. “I also see this as a terrific way to bring attention to Alison’s work and the vibrant, collaborative, and interdisciplinary work and pedagogy that has taken place at CalArts from its inception to the present day.”

On Friday, March 23, Reframing the House of Dust: Activations,”– a performance event free and open to the public – will take place on campus in the newly built House of Glass, a response to the House of Dust that was designed and built by faculty students in January 2018. For the event, Knowles herself will conduct one of her signature Fluxus performances, Newspaper Music, along with newly commissioned work by an international roster of artists and reinterpretations of scores by CalArts faculty and students.

On Saturday, March 24, “Reframing the House of Dust: A Symposium” will feature Sarbanes, Pluot and Jacquin, alongside art historians Hannah Higgins and Nicole Woods, curator and Fluxus scholar Karen Moss, poet and scholar Jasper Bernes and architectural historian Sylvia Lavin.

The original House of Dust poem was generated via the Fortran computer programming language in 1967 by founding CalArts faculty member Knowles in collaboration with former CalArts music faculty James Tenney. Demonstrating how the poetic disruption of language programming could lead to a generative artwork, each quatrain of the poem results from a computer generated chance operation. Each line was produced from lists of language compiled by the artist – indicating a type of house, a material, a site or situation, a light source, and a category of inhabitants.

The original functional structure House of Dust created by Knowles, and situated at CalArts from 1970-72, was inspired by one stanza of the poem:




Kicking off a semester-long reexamination of House of Dust during Wintersession of this year, CalArts students in collaboration with Sarbanes, Jacquin, Pluot, artist and writer  Ken Ehrlich and Knowles herself (via Skype), designed and built the House of Glass, a new iteration of the House of Dust. To construct the house, students studied the original poem, the 35-page scroll of tractor-feed computer paper that resides in the CalArts archive, and chose a different quatrain on which to base a new social sculpture:




The new house was designed in four days and erected in a little over 12 hours. Later in the year, a section of it will be transported to the MAK Center for Art and Architecture at the Schindler House in Los Angeles to be part of an exhibition and related events co-curated by Jacquin and Pluot, curators of Art by Translation and Anna Milone, curator of France Los Angeles Exchange (FLAX).   

“Reframing the House of Dust: Activations” will take place on March 23rd at the House of Glass on the CalArts campus at 24700 McBean Parkway, Valencia, CA 91355. The event begins at 3 pm and is free and open to the public.

“Reframing the House of Dust: A Symposium” will take place on March 24th from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at REDCAT at 631 West 2nd Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012. Tickets to the symposium can be purchased on the REDCAT website.

Both events are presented by the CalArts MA Aesthetics and Politics Program in the School of Critical Studies, in partnership with Art by Translation, the MAK Center for Art and Architecture and France Los Angeles Exchange (FLAX).

California Institute of the Arts has set the pace for educating professional artists since 1970. Offering rigorous undergraduate and graduate degree programs through six schools—Art, Critical Studies, Dance, Film/Video, Music, and Theater—CalArts has championed creative excellence, critical reflection, and the development of new forms and expressions. As successive generations of faculty and alumni have helped shape the landscape of contemporary arts, the Institute first envisioned by Walt Disney encompasses a vibrant, eclectic community with global reach, inviting experimentation, independent inquiry, and active collaboration and exchange among artists, artistic disciplines, and cultural traditions. 

The MA Aesthetics and Politics is a two-year program—one-year full-time, one-year low-residence—that engages students in an intensive critique of the relations between art, culture, politics and society in today’s demanding global context. Housed in the unique arts-centered environment of CalArts, the Program offers a series of rich and dynamic core courses in contemporary art and politics, critical and aesthetic theory, and media and urban studies. For more information, see: https://criticalstudies.calarts.edu/programs/aesthetics-and-politics/ma

Art by Translation in an international research and exhibition program initiated by École Nationale Supérieure d’Arts de Paris-Cergy and École Supérieure des Beaux Arts TALM Angers. It is supported by the French Ministry of Culture and collaborates with a host of international academic and art institutions. Organized in sessions dedicated to specific research themes, this itinerant program takes place at different sites in Europe and North America and develops artistic and curatorial projects, discursive events and publications in collaboration with museums, art schools and universities. In each context, research is enriched by the contributions of international artists, lecturers, doctoral and master’s students from different disciplines.