Colonial aesthetics, obscenity trials, masculine hysteria, crime scene photography, sexology, the production and obfuscation of the lesbian throughout modernity, and the contemporary collapse of post-war social housing projects, all intersect in Domestic Optimism – Sexually Dissident Domestic Design, a critical queer and working class reading of architecture, furniture, and modernist aesthetics. The performance enacts forms of inscription, temporal displacements, and slippages from a much-ignored ‘sapphic’ modernity, making a mess of outdated museum display and exhausted historical legacies. The designer Eileen Gray has been an important figure in the project’s research, not as a singular heroic modernist fit for canonization, but as a collectively involved queer woman, part of an extended peer group of dykey women makers in Paris throughout the early twentieth century.

Domestic Optimism – Sexually Dissident Domestic Design is the third and last act of a trilogy of works developed by Emma Wolf-Haugh over recent years: The Re-appropriation of Sensuality (re-designing the sex club for dykes, queer women, and trans folk), Sex in Public (marking and performing cruising sites for dykes, queer women, and trans folk), and Domestic Optimism (sexually dissident domestic design). As with the previous two acts, the project engages historically with a queer-feminist bent, and generates its own stages for discourse with collaborative ‘Reading Troupe’ workshops and zine publication, as well as exhibitions approached through scenography and performance.


Emma Wolf-Haugh is a visual artist and educator. Weaving together installation, performance, publishing, and collaborative workshop techniques, she is interested in re-orienting attention in relation to cultural narratives, and develops work from a queer/feminist questioning of what is missing. Her previous experience in theatre and queer DIY club scenes has led to a continuing engagement with the aesthetics of club culture, along with questions of spatial politics and an incorporation of theatricality as a means of making propositions. Emma is co-founder of the artist collective The Many Headed Hydra, together with Suza Husse. She edited the anthology Having A Kiki: Queer Desire & Public Space (2016), and was recently artist-in-residence at the Irish Museum of Modern Art (2019/2020).

In English
Organized by

Amelia Groom

Supported by The Project Arts Centre, The Grazer Kunstverein, and The Irish Arts Council, Domestic Optimism will be realized as a solo exhibition and accompanying programme at the Grazer Kunstverein, Graz, in September 2020, and at The Project Arts Centre, Dublin, in January 2021. Development of Domestic Optimism has been supported by an IMMA 1000 residency and by a research residency at Askeaton Contemporary Arts (ACA).

Image credit © Domestic Optimism, Bibendum Chair in the modern lesbian home, Emma Wolf-Haugh, 2019