The Interior:
Art, Space, and Performance
(Early Modern to Postmodern)

Our project investigates pre-modern, modern, and postmodern “interiors” and their complex relationships with exterior spaces. At the project’s core is an understanding of space as dynamic and alterable, generated through human agency. We are particularly interested in interiors that oscillate(d) between private and public, as well as in spaces whose boundaries were or are permeable, shifting between the interior and the exterior world. Our main aim is twofold: first, we will study and compile a corpus of concepts and interpretative frameworks for the “interior” across specific media and cultural-historical contexts; and second, we will use this material to develop new avenues of inquiry within the fields of art history, history of architecture, history of design, theatre history, and cultural history.

Over the last two decades notions of the “interior” have become destabilized and problematic, especially within theatre, the fine arts, architecture, and critical theory, and this has fostered reformulations of traditional concepts of inside vs. outside, public vs. private, and reality vs. representation. We consider interior spaces, in terms of both actual spaces and their artistic representations, as hybrid and heterogeneous constructions that offer new methodological frameworks for historically situating aesthetic and social phenomena. Compared to most previous literature on interior spaces, which has focused either on specific time periods or on the interior as a genre of painting, the scope of our research project is much larger. Emphasizing the interactions of spaces, lifestyles, artistic practices, and forms of representation from early modern to postmodern times, our work brings new perspectives and approaches to a subject at the intersection of various disciplinary realms.

Our approach is informed by both the “performative turn” and the “spatial turn” within scholarly discourses, for which the reception of and responses to Michel Foucault’s essay Des espaces autres and Henri Lefebvre’s La production de l’espace have been of major importance. A study of the multiple relationships between art, space, and performance is particularly suitable for a collaborative research project that engages historians of art, architecture, theatre as well as textiles and costumes. Although the six subprojects are guided by different historical perspectives and methodologies, they all share an interest in investigating issues of hybridity, imagination, identity, gender, and participation in relation to interior spaces. Through its focus on the “interior” as both the subject of and a theoretical framework for research, this project will bring to light new historical evidence and insights, and it will also motivate new approaches within the individual investigators’ areas of research.