Home is where the heart is follows on from last year's participatory project Dreaming of home, during which people had been invited to be interviewed about their dream home, in exchange for which, I gave them a painting of the 'interior portrait' they had shared. Home is where the heart is continues to develop the 'home' theme.
In conversations with puppeteer Ali McCaw, we discussed how the use of puppetry could change the way an interview might progress. Puppets can embody qualities that a person cannot. They have an otherworldly innocence, a disarming strangeness due to them being both animate and inanimate.
Out of these conversations, we developed a character duo: the Major and Ruff Ruffson.
The Major and Ruff Ruffson are companions who travel with all their worldly possessions with them. They have no fixed abode. In fact, the Major spends much of his time drawing out plans for his 'dream home' which he one day, hopes to build.
In September 2017, the pair took their mobile contraption onto the streets of Workington and Whitehaven, on the west coast of Cumbria, and engaged passersby in conversations around the notion of home.
The Major, being an hospitable sort, would invite people into his 'home' for tea.
And he delighted in offering the service of drawing out people's 'dream home' for them.
This seemed to go down quite well.
On the other hand, as the researching artists, we were also intrigued by the great many people who were slightly unnerved by the Major and Ruff Ruffson. So we will be selecting some more towns to visit, just to see if this tends to happen everywhere. And if so, what is happening? What does this travelling couple evoke for our town and city dwellers? What does it say about our culturally held notion of home and identity?