Today we visited the Dennis Severs house. It’s quite a fascinating thing: An old London house turned into a physical re-creation, in enormous and highly personal detail, of a fictitious London family through several centuries. It’s very much like walking into a novel.

I really like this genre of art, other examples of which (more or less) are Punch Drunk’s Sleep No More and the wonderfully mysterious Museum of Jurassic Technology in Los Angeles. The basic idea is a rich novelistic fictional world presented in the form of an old fashioned house of curiosities.

The visitor is free to wander at will from room to room, examining the physical manifestations of fictional narratives, which are presented in enormous and idiosyncratic detail. The net result is an overwhelming sense of propinquity, an emergent feeling of presence not unlike the effect of reading Proust’s A la Recherche du Temps Perdu end to end.

I wonder how flexible this medium really is. For example, could one use the technique to create immersion into an everyday life of the 25th century? In other words, could such a delightfully Victorian approach to artistic engagement be effective as a form of speculative fiction?

I guess we would need to try it to find out.

One thought on “Propinquity”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *