PORTRAIT OF A CHAIR
"The verandah is an interval implying potential meanings just out of reach. . . . Life on the verandah is not fixed or stable, but always a process, a progression. This raises the question of how much longer Australian culture will hesitate before stepping off the verandah into the landscape."34
This paper has explored the social and cultural potential of the chair within the threshold space of the verandah to act as a portrait. The paper suggests that the portrait is informed by the chair's diverse and varied historical connections. This history of the chair was developed from an oak box, by giving it a high back and transforming its status. The chair when placed on the threshold of the verandah expresses varied connections to the social space of the street. The chair's positioning and style also creates a continual dialogue that engages with the social. By investigating the chair's positions and styles, this paper has developed various interpretations of the meaning of the chair's position.
Chapter One explores how Lefebvre and Bachelard construct through science and imagination, an investigative interrogation of space. This interrogation can be applied to the porch/verandah and therefore the threshold space. A theoretical error is made in viewing the threshold space as passive, denying its spatiality in favour of a perspectival view. The perspectival view limits the conception of the threshold space, turning it into a mathematical space, therefore limiting its potential for interrogation. The fetishised threshold space becomes transformed by the occupant as well as by the seer. These two positions, one the occupant's, the other the seer's, both construct interpretations of the space. The seer's and the occupant's interpretations have vital significance when the threshold space is considered in the context of an ongoing social commentary. What can be experienced here is that the threshold space is not insignificant and that the perception of this space is not an insignificant act. The threshold space is an area to develop theoretical constructions, due to its visibility and vulnerability. Through Bachelard's concept of felicitous space, the threshold can be seen as an area for the occupant's unconscious and imaginative ideas to be interpreted by the seer.
Chapter Two researches the historical significance of the chair when defined through its ongoing metaphorical role in society. The academic chair, the cathedra, the judicial bench and the throne, show how society places an importance on the chair's role. When placed on the porch/verandah the chair's character is given a renewed context which extends its references and articulates its function. The significance is contextually developed through the various narratives that are interpreted from the style of chair and its positioning. These chairs with their historical context are then placed on the porch/verandah of Australian homes. The construction of various principles and personal beliefs are displayed to the social via the threshold space. The threshold space with the chair as its principal character, displays a cultural relationship to Australia.
Through Chapter Three the perception of the chair on the threshold as a metaphor is explained. The various narratives developed in this paper concerning the threshold space defines it as an area of continual change and renewal which can be viewed as a cultural and social barometer. The space allows for and demands critical analysis of an ongoing cultural dialogue between the occupant and the seer. This space can then be transformed into a world of imagination and intrigue which can change the seer's perception of this space. The chair's interaction with the social, is explained through its relationship with technology as well as its sexual connotations. The chairs on the threshold are visible signifiers which display a multitude of cultural values.
In chapter four the chairs positioning on the threshold at the front of a home are examined as a social portrait. The chair as a social portrait becomes a transmitter, part of a re-defining and re-evaluating process that is projected to the seer on the street. The seer from the street becomes the interpreter, reading the various signs and symbols that are presented to them from the threshold. Various narratives are developed to demonstrate the possible interpretation that can be related to the chair. The chair is discussed from its position as a social icon or symbol that could be classified and placed onto a map. Its theatrical implications are explained when a number of chairs placed on the threshold appear to be characters in a play. These narratives are extended upon in the anarchic and exhibited chairs sections. Here the seer's interpretation of the threshold space is one where by the seer also sees him or herself as though the space was a mirror, reflecting back their own identity.
By examining the theories of Lefebvre and Bachelard, as well as a historical perspective of the chair, the threshold space and the chair are shown not to be innocent of meaning. By stating the various meanings and interpretations of the chair's historical and social connections, the threshold space becomes a significant area of investigation revealing its poetical possibilities.
The threshold space defines a significant area that develops a cultural identity when perceived as a linking device between Australian's and their country . The chair's placement within the threshold space is an identifiable human element. This identifiable element defined by the dialectic in this paper interacts between the spatiality of the porch/verandah and its own innate history. The spatial construct of the porch/verandah is contextualised by the chair in the same way that a stage is contextualised by the actors. These threshold spaces are political arenas that have the power to define a social and cultural context.