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Wendy McGowan goes to the preview of the 'House of Vernacular' / 11 October 2010

photo of elderly couple kissing

The Corinthians (couple kissing) featuring amateur American family snapshots, 1947 to 1974 © Archive of Modern Conflict

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As I arrive at Fabrica there is a real buzz of excitement, not the usual air of intellectual sobriety at many previews - a real feeling of intense curiosity and delight. At such events people usually stand around, near the artworks, looking coolly sufficient in their interest and I feel just nervous and awkward.

As I travelled here I wondered how I would like the exhibition, once the walls had been erected and all of the corners sealed up.  I hoped that completion wouldn't close down the possibilities that I could see when I visited during the installation; but this was definitely a case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. At the House of Vernacular either you're in or out. It is more a process that you undergo, as you move from room to room, rather than a series of images you see.

The idea of the 'House' itself conjures images from horror stories, where 'it' might take possession of us, to teach us a life lesson. Or perhaps we could be entering a house of mirrors, where, for a while, we might lose our way and see ourselves, but in new ways.

I cannot wait to go in, though I hover in a shop-like entrance for a while, wondering what I should read, then think …what the hell! ..and go in.  I have always been a bit reluctant to go on fairground rides, for instance, to be taken over by an experience and tipped out at the other end. But I decided to submit myself.
As I walked through the linked rooms, people were smiling and talking about themselves and seem so relaxed. This is my kind of fair.

Each room showed me a little more of how we look at ourselves, and how we want to be seen. Photographic devices were laid open showing how we try to convince and persuade others of our reality. But most often the intention behind the images slipped and they seemed sad or funny, clever or corrupt. 

The overall understanding I come away with, from the 'House of Vernacular' was one of our vulnerability - how we wish to be more than we are because we feel we are not enough.

The House of Vernacular selected by Martin Parr, is on show at Fabrica Gallery, Brighton, East Sussex from 2 October - 28 November 2010