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Arlee, Montana

Books, lumber (8x8x10' house), performance DVD

Ariana Boussard-Reifel, New York, New York

Within all cultures, the home is a deeply significant symbol. It is where we go for protection, peace and parenting, but the imprinting that occurs in the home can also breed messages of fear, enmity and isolation. The home is the iconographic epitome of safety, but when hate is espoused within the confines of these walls, it propagates an environment that becomes a danger to society.

In the home we begin to shape every aspect of our social identity. What we learn as children forms the basis of how we see ourselves and others in our towns, our country and throughout the world. And as we discover ourselves, we begin to understand the face of human inequity; all of us are touched by prejudice.

It is with this premise that we have structured an art piece where home is the nucleus of early judgment forming. It is where hate, intolerance and injustice are learned, and where unchecked, spill out into the greater society.

When we initially conceived this work, we went through various ways of presenting the "house". We talked about a free standing, four sided house, but later the felt that were it to grow out of the wall, with only partial windows exposed, then the secretive aspect of the unseen family would be more effective.

We began to see the books themselves as the very structure of the house, not just placed in the house. To that end, we drove to Helena, and picked up 1400 of them from the Montana Human Rights Network and began to build the home where the entire structure permeates the message. The books were banged into the house with a mallet, maintained by only friction and gravity. Even the curtains, sewn from book pages, extend out, as do the tumbling books, into the rest of the museum space, letting the viewer know that, this kind of narrow and bigoted personal way of thinking, finds its path out into the rest of the world, poisoning society as a whole. 

The performance work that accompanies Hate Begins at Home is an integral part of the art installation. The family, mother and daughter, interact within the confines of the book, and it is the words themselves that shape the outcome of their lives.

For us to take that same intimacy that we actually share are mother and daughter and recreate it with such a powerful negativity was moving for both of us. A mother’s influence over the innocent child is enormous, and this personal format, one where the visual impact is felt by the viewer stepping into the home, is a necessary extension of the installation.

The words transform the child’s body and transform themselves as well. The lexis of hatred will, instead of elucidating the Church’s desires, muddy its own meaning. On a secondary level, the child’s body will be washed in the parent’s ideology, but again, converse to the Church’s desires, her body will not become cleansed and elevated. It will instead become sullied and blackened by the text.

This pigmenting, of course, has another connotation. There is an unsubtle racial overtone to the piece. The desired endpoint of the books, espousing a pure white race, is met with its opposite when the text transforms Ariana’s body. Black and white, good and bad, pure and tainted, are all left without specific values because the text is actualizing its own antonym.

The mother is, in a sense, teaching the language of hate. Her actions on her child’s body are a simulacrum of the lesson taught at home. By painting the daughter, this act mirrors the mentoring process that happens between a parent and a child. The end result is the transformation of white to black and articulated hate into null gibberish.