testsite 20.1 ~ How a House Works…

Andy Coolquitt & Alix Browne

Opening reception at testsite: Sunday, February 23, 3-6PM

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      Guest Bedroom, West 33rd Street, Austin, TX.  Image courtesy of the artist.

      Fluent~Collaborative & testsite are pleased to present How a House Works..., a collaboration with artist Andy Coolquitt and writer and editor Alix Browne. The project opens on Sunday, February 23rd with a public reception from 3 to 6PM.

      The opening reception will take the form of a performance paying tribute to the house; a birthday party for the house, or to be more specific, for the remodel of the house. In 1981-82, Laurence Miller hired Renfro and Steinbomer architects to design the remodel/additions to the house. Let’s celebrate its 38th birthday! Come dressed as your favorite po-mo architect! Bring a period-inspired potluck dish! King Ranch Chicken, anyone? Toasts will commence! Toasts to Laurence! Toasts to Judy! Toasts to the architects! Toasts to 1982! To the history of Post-Modernism! A most special gift will be offered with docent-led tours of small groups donning foot-booties to view the second-floor rooms, providing the community a rare view of Laurence’s amazing collection of books, the Lawrence Wiener posters, and the yellow-tiled guest bathroom. Our hope is that dear viewer will walk away with a smile upon their face, a belly full of food and drink, and a more nuanced awareness of the site as a complex and contradictory residence offering communal comfort, intimate mystery, safe harbor...the civilized home.

      More about the project How a House Works...

      - Research as Design
      The house itself is the subject of Coolquitt’s inquiry. The work is about the house...how a house works. Its primary audience is the community of art lovers who frequent Laurence's house for these occasions. They, as seen through Coolquitt’s own experience, typically do not pay close attention to the architecture. They are focused on the art works which are situated within the three front rooms; the foyer, living room and dining room. The other rooms and passages are "erased" by white screens pulled down over closed double doors. Coolquitt had been to several openings and hadn't even noticed that Maggie's office was a room. Laurence has orchestrated these three rooms, and their relationship to the rest of the house, as somewhat of a blank-slate container for the artists' projects. His subtle exposure of the rest of the house is revealed in a carefully composed pattern of denial and permission. Coolquitt’s gift is to offer the viewer a rare opportunity to experience the house as the autotopography of daily life.* To amplify the structure as sense of place, in its specifics; its tools for the production of food, of heat, of shelter and comfort.

      - The Center for the Identification of Architectural Micro-Aggressions, Molestations, and Assailments
      The C.I.A.MAMA project is a design consultancy focused on the “darling sins” of domestic homeownership. Coolquitt has been developing this idea for many years and will push forward with a specific business plan website, power-point presentation, and video. The identification process is assisted by an uncanny sensitivity to problematic domestic situations through a number of proprietary techniques, key among them is a process he calls the "insecurity of dislocation". Over the past 30 years of his professional life, he has been invited to hundreds of residencies, and has lived, for short periods of time, in many different types of domestic structures...from humble, hand-made sheds to extraordinary châteaux. Typically, during the first few days of dislocation, in this state of heightened awareness, he is ultra-sensitive to his physical surroundings. He is able to identify specific aberrations, both of the spatial and chattel categories. The text will be further developed and incorporated into a graphic document designed both as a project catalogue, and power-point presentation. There will also be a video element in the form of a karaoke about the lighting scheme titled “The cans and the tracks and the dimmers and the switches.”

      Browne, as a journalist and editor who frequently writes on art and design, also has an investment in the implications of domestic space. She states, “I have always been interested in domestic spaces – the things people choose to have around them, their idea of order and comfort, how they assert themselves in the space and on it. A domestic space is a very intimate portrait of the person who inhabits it—and it reveals everything.” For her contribution to the project, Browne has conducted an interview with Coolquitt on his concept of domestic space and his ideas on “how a house works.” The interview will be published on the graphic document that accompanies this exhibition.


      Andy Coolquitt is an Austin-based artist. In 1964 Andy was born in the real version of that town that is fictionalized on King of the Hill. It’s a suburb of Dallas, TX. On Halloween 1979, he went as a giant Quaalude, fashioning the pill- shaped costume in yellow painted cardboard branded Lemmon-714. Together with his best friend Brad McLemore, he formed his first band, hastily named Detour. They decorated their practice space with hundreds of those square Styrofoam egg cartons. His early music education took a turn after seeing Ornette Coleman at the Caravan of Dreams in Fort Worth. Later that year under the influence of Jaco Pastorius, he had the frets removed from his 1962 Fender Precision. He now regrets that decision. Might have been that same year that he helped a dude build a house, learning the basic skills that would be utilized fourteen years later. While in grad school at the University of Texas in Austin he embarked upon the project that still occupies most of his energy and remains “the lens through which his work can be viewed”. It didn’t have a name for a long time but now people call it andy’s place. In 2003 a story on the house came out in Nest Magazine under the title Andy Coolquitt’s Thesis. Another milestone was the publication of a monograph by the UT Press in 2012 which accompanied a 10-year survey organized by the Blaffer Museum in Houston. These days he shares his studio with a grey fox named Gregory.

      Alix Browne has written extensively about fashion, art, design and culture. She served as the Deputy Design Editor of T: The New York Times Style Magazine and, more recently, Features Director for W Magazine. She is a contributing editor to Apartamento.

      *this term comes from an exhibition Coolquitt recently participated in...

      In a 1995 essay, art historian Jennifer A. González coined the term “autotopography” to articulate the ways in which aspects of biography can be revealed in the creation of one’s environment. See: https://www.jmkac.org/exhibition/2019/mise-en-scene/autotopographers.html


      Opening reception at testsite: Sunday, February 23, 3-6pm. Exhibition on view through April 5.
      : 502 West 33rd Street, Austin, TX
      Hours: Sundays 4-6 PM and by appointment (e: ABoiarsky@fluentcollab.org, t: 512 453 3199 x2)