(De)constructing Risk: A Domestic Image of the Future

Lecture by Helene Kazan
Strategies of analysing risk are adopted under a wide range of circumstances, and produce an image of the worst-case scenario as a complex reality fabricated by algorithms, hopes, fears, conflicting philosophies and historical precedence. Expert methods of calculating risk are employed across industry, aimed at producing the best possible forecast in order to sell a calculable danger to clientele. The domestic space, the home or the house, operates as a platform that forms a relationship between expert perceptions of risk, observed for example in the financing and insuring of houses within the real estate market, and risk felt as a tangible, bodily threat, experienced within the home. This simultaneous articulation of risk (abstract and affective) breeds a tension, which I argue is articulated and registered in the architecture of the home itself as it induces ‘alienation, distrust, and… heightened risk perception in those who are excluded from the magic preserves of its technical expertise.’ [1] 
This research reads this tension through two images of the domestic space that depict the future in Lebanon. Connected on an axis, both images are speculative, as one is an image of future destruction, whilst the other is an image of perceived opportunity. Although both are uncertain, both require the viewer to not only observe and believe in the image of the future they depict, but go so far as to ask their audience to invest and gamble on it. By this process the images not only represent two different potential futures, but as a mode of production that colonises the future, they become a form of reality that is both felt in and affects the present situation.
In exposing the contradictions operating between these two images of perceived imminent or non-existent future threat within this specific context, this research intends to make present the ways in which risks’ unequal distribution contributes to constructing or deconstructing the home as a site of security. With the aim is to better understand the effects this transformative condition might create, as it impacts directly upon the sensitive and difficult nature of the territorial subject, particularly the human subject within the home.

[1] S. Jasanoff, The Political Science of Risk Perception. Elsevier Science Limited. Northern Ireland. 1998.

Helene Kazan, is currently artist in residence at KEX Studio. She is a multidisciplinary artist, who across her practice uses research and archival material to generate moving image and multimedia installations looking at the analysis of risk and the image of future ruin. Focusing in particular on the domestic space - the home or the house - as the site where a complex range of values converge and where small-scale actions of preparedness or anticipation mediate the effects of risk and its management into a range of affective and experiential registers. Kazan is the recipient of the CHASE AHRC Award for her project as a PhD candidate at Research Architecture at Goldsmiths University of London.